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Face of civil service changes as 'non-mandarin' takes top post; I'm bound to think differently - Dame Gillian.

Byline: David Williamson Senedd Correspondent

A FORMER GP has been appointed to the most powerful civil service post in the Welsh Assembly Government.

Dame Gillian Morgan replaces Sir Jon Shortridge as Permanent Secretary.

The 54-year-old mother of one was born in Llwynypia, in the Rhondda Valley, and rose to become chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

She said, "We are about to embark on the next phase of devolution, as the Assembly Government uses its new legislative powers to drive forward its distinctive 'Made In Wales' agenda."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan welcomed her to the role, describing her as "definitely not" a traditional Whitehall mandarin.

He said she was a "non-manand non-mandarin".

She admitted her journey from the NHS to the highest level of devolved government will shape her leadership style, saying, "I'm bound to think differently. What I bring is a very close knowledge of what it's like to deliver services, which the civil servant traditionally hasn't had."

When asked for an assessment of the nation's overall health, she described Wales as "the perfect patient".

She said it had "the opportunity to be really healthy", could benefit from preventative work, and "doesn't need an awful lot of very expensive medication".

A former president of the International Hospital Federation, she was one of the three members of the 2006 review of public services led by Sir Jeremy Beecham.

This experience spurred her to seek the post.

Dame Gillian said she found "signs of a country, a Government, really interested in what it did and how it did it and wanting to improve".

Ensuring value for money will be a priority, she added.

"Every pound you waste is a pound you can't use to provide services to other people," she said.

"So I think it's a moral and ethical for public services to strive to offer the best value it possibly can in everything it does."

In a brief meeting with journalists in the First Minister's office she underscored her Welsh credentials, despite leaving at age seven.

She said, "I am Welsh. I'm passionate about being Welsh - I'm afraid I'm very noisy if I ever go to the rugby stadium, standing and shouting for Wales."

Such a commitment to the region was crucial, she insisted, "If you care about something then you give more. I think passion is greatly underestimated as being important ... If you're passionate and proud you'll go that extra step."

Her husband, Peter, is a teacher, and son, Matthewis a second-year medical student.

Dame Gillian described the Labour-Plaid Cymru programme for government as "very forward looking" and said, "I really believe quite passionately Wales can be one of the best, if not the best, small countries in the world. It's got everything going for it."

Mr Morgan said the Assembly Government had proven its competence and could now place a new emphasis on "creativity and reform".

He said, "As devolution started the most important thing we had to establish was Wales was capable of running it sown domestic affairs ... therefore there had to be a very, very strong emphasis on keeping the governance of the highest possible order and not bothering the auditors too much."

He added, "I think we've done that successfully."

Outgoing permanent secretary Sir Jon said, "What we want to do is through the Welsh Assembly Government and the Assembly makes Wales a really special place and I'm sure she has all the capacity to do that."

Her profile will be a little higher than her predecessor, he said


FRESH OUTLOOK New Permanent Secretary Dame Gillian Morgan with First Minister Rhodri Morgan Picture: Andrew James
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 21, 2008
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