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Former NPCC chief to head up new public services leadership body

Centre to develop network of leaders who can drive through transformation of public services
Published - 16/09/2019 By - Gary Mason

Dame Sarah Thornton, former chair of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) is to head up the government’s new National Leadership Centre (NLC) which was set up to develop leadership skills in order to transform public services.

Mike Cunningham, CEO at the College of Policing, also joins the board of the new organisation which includes senior representatives from the fire service, senior former soldiers and MoD staff and CEOs of Hospital Trusts.

Board members will begin a coaching and collaboration programme with support from  academic institutions such as the University of Oxford and MIT. The Treasury has set aside £21 million to run the centre’s programme for the first three years. The centre will not have a building or campus but instead stage events in various locations across England.

The recently appointed board will be chaired by the new Independent Anti-Slavery Comissioner Dame Thornton, who was the NPCC’s first chair.

The purpose of the centre according to the government is to “create a network of leaders to drive collaboration across the public sector.” It added that Mr Cunningham’s role will be to “help shape strategic direction.”

Chief Executive of the Civil Service, John Manzoni said: “Those involved will learn from the very best and develop a fantastic network offering knowledge sharing and peer support.”

“The development of our senior leaders will help them drive improvement in the UK’s crucial services the public use everyday.”

Participation in the programme is currently by invitation only but in future years it is envisaged that entry to the programme will be through formal applications. The current candidate profile is individuals who “are in, or about to start, some of the most senior and challenging roles across public services.”

The centre will develop a programme to develop the skills of more than 100 senior public service leaders. Participants will be coached in different areas including future technologies, like AI and robotics, to understand how “they can embrace new tools to transform public service.”

A new global evaluation hub will support data-driven research on leadership and innovation.  

Dame Sara Thornton, Chair, said: “The National Leadership Centre provides a unique opportunity to support cross sector leadership in public service, through its leadership programme, networking and research. It is a privilege to have been appointed as Chair to help shape the Centre’s strategic direction. I look forward to working with leaders across a variety of sectors in order to ensure our public service continues to thrive and serves the public in the best way possible.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “I am thrilled that the National Leadership Centre is being launched to support Chief Executives across the entire public sector to be world-class leaders. The Centre is working with outstanding and exceptional leaders and visionaries who I am sure will help this government deliver truly world-leading public services.”

The NLC’s Board includes:

Mike Cunningham                          CEO, College of Policing

Deb McKenzie                               Chief People Officer, NHS England

General Sir Gordon Messenger       Former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (2016-19)

Pat Ritchie                                   CEO, Newcastle City Council


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