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Gov IT slasher gets top civil service role

Ian Watmore promoted in wake of 'Sir Humphrey's' exit

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The man tasked with slimming government IT spending – yet who tried to inject MacBooks into Whitehall – will step up to a more powerful role after civil service grandee Sir Gus O’Donnell retires in December.

Ian Watmore, chief operating officer of the Efficiency and Reform Group, which claimed to have saved Whitehall £3bn over the past year by tightening up bureaucratic operations, will become permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office.

Watmore’s new position will make him the most senior civil servant in the department charged with making Whitehall wonks work efficiently and encouraging co-ordination between government departments.

He became a familiar name to government IT providers after waging a battle to make them more cost-effective, telling Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in June that £800m of his £3bn savings came from renegotiating IT contracts.

Watmore name-dropped BT, HP and Fujitsu as companies he had haggled with. "The generality of what we did with suppliers was to get them to reduce their prices," he told the committee.

Another one of his stated priorities was reorganising procurement so that small and medium-sized enterprises could bid for government contracts - deals he envisaged as being more cost-effective over the long-term.

Watmore’s promotion comes as part of a restructuring of the civil service following Sir Gus’s retirement on 31 December.

Sir Gus’s £240,000-a-year role as head of the civil service has been divided into three parts: No 10 permanent secretary and the Prime Minister's principal policy advisor Jeremy Heywood will become the Cabinet Secretary, while a mandarin plucked from Whitehall will be appointed as head of the Home Civil Service.

Watmore trained as an accountant, was CEO of Accenture, and joined the civil service in 2004, with a nine-month break as CEO of the Football Association in 2009. ®

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