The Government Digital Service (GDS) has appointed Kevin Cunnington as executive director, replacing Stephen Foreshew-Cain.
Cunnington will shift from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), where he was director general for business transformation, and brings private sector experience with Goldman Sachs and Vodafone.
News of Cunnington's promotion comes on the same day that HMRC confirmed the departure of Mark Dearnley as chief digital and information officer.
Civil Service CEO John Manzoni explained that Cunnington had earned the role after the successful introduction of a range of digital services at the DWP.
"He combines that proven track record with a deep understanding of the business transformation necessary to ensure that the full benefits of digital investment are realised," he said.
Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer, meanwhile, added that Cunnington's brief will be "to build on the outstanding legacy of Mike Bracken and Foreshew-Cain, to work with government departments to continue the transformation of government services so that we can better serve the public, and to continue the global leadership in digital transformation that GDS is rightly famed for here and abroad".
However, Cunnington may have to contend with infighting across the Civil Service for control of IT budgets and strategic direction, which the establishment of the GDS in 2010 had yanked away from departments to the chagrin of many civil servants.
Andrew Greenway, one of a growing number of GDS refugees, suggested that GDS has been losing this battle ever since the General Election in 2015.
"What's playing out in the shadows of this strange summer is a timeless Whitehall battle. On one side those who seek to direct from the centre, on the other, big departments that prefer to be left to their own devices. It's a battle that goes back 150 years. The centre is not holding," said Greenway.
He forecast that the GDS will almost certainly end up being smothered by Whitehall bureaucrats who always resented the outsider taking power and budgets away from Civil Service departments and telling them what to do. Greenway partially blamed Manzoni.
"The defenestration of GDS has accelerated under the reign of John Manzoni. This is perplexing. The Civil Service CEO is there to drive big institutional priorities past departmental parochialism," he said.
"Digital is one of these, giving it a seat at the top table. Yet as GDS' influence has degraded, chief digital officer [CDO] roles in departments are also disappearing. Kevin's departure comes hard on the heels of the Home Office scrapping its own CDO role."
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