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UK.gov IT slasher axes himself - after 5 months in new job

Ian Watmore follows horde of civil servants streaming out the door

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Former tech-spending axeman Ian Watmore is leaving the civil service just five months after taking up a new role as the permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office.

He had previously headed up the reform and efficiency group, the unit tasked with cutting waste from the Whitehall budget. The Cabinet Office explained that Watmore was retiring to occupy himself with "spousal roles" in charity and sport.

Watmore's resignation comes within a year of several other top Whitehall ICT bods throwing in the towel. Cabinet Office CIO Joe Harley quit the Cabinet Office in November – less than a year after helping to draft the government's ICT strategy; Deputy Cabinet Office CIO Bill McCluggage left weeks before him; and the Cabinet Office man responsible for bringing G-Cloud into government – Chris Chant – left at the beginning of this month.

Watmore joined the Civil Service seven years ago and served as Whitehall's efficiency hardman - claiming to have knocked £3bn off government contracts with companies including BT, HP and Fujitsu during his time as chief operating officer of the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG).

Watmore's focus on procurement led to him co-creating the Major Projects Authority (MPA), which oversees projects worth £400m or more. He also set up the Government Digital Service.

In January 2012 Watmore took a promotion to become permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office after civil service head Gus O'Donnell retired and his role was split three ways. Watmore landed the role at the top of the Cabinet Office, the department that oversees the government.

He will be replaced as head of the Cabinet Office by Melanie Dawes, currently the director general of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat there. She will act as permanent secretary pending a competition for the job. As frothing political blogger Guido Fawkes points out, Dawes' partner is Benedict Brogan, deputy editor of the Telegraph.

Before joining the civil service, Watmore was CEO of Accenture, and joined the civil service in 2004, with a nine-month break in 2009, when he had a stint as CEO of the Football Association. ®

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