Date of release: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sir Leigh LewisThe value of the 'much maligned' public sector to the country's economic and social wellbeing formed the topic of a recent talk by Sir Leigh Lewis at the University of Greenwich.

Sir Leigh, a former Permanent Secretary, and a Visiting Fellow within the university's Business School, outlined several areas where he believed the public sector to be at the leading edge, and where it was at least as effective as the private sector.

These included areas of care and compassion, public acceptability, speed and effectiveness, diversity and openness and transparency. He said: "I wanted to present the somewhat unfashionable thesis that the public sector, rather than being the bureaucratic drag anchor that is often presented, is – in some instances at least – at the leading edge, rather than the trailing one, in our society."

He added: "The contribution which it can make to both economic wellbeing and social justice is in danger of being underestimated … an effective public sector, rather than being a drain on economic prosperity, is a valuable contributor to it."

Sir Leigh's talk, Endless Possibilities in the Public Sector – Leading Edge or Last Man Standing?,was delivered to the university's annual MBA Conference at the Greenwich Campus.

Sir Leigh was Permanent Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions from 2005 until his retirement from the Civil Service at the end of 2010. Previously, from 2003 to 2005, he was Permanent Secretary for Crime, Policing and Counter-terrorism in the Home Office, a role he held at the time of the 7/7 London bombing attacks. From 2001 to 2003 he was the first Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus. 

Since retiring from the Civil Service Sir Leigh has served as the Chair of the government's Bill of Rights Commission. He also holds non-executive roles at Aviva and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and chairs the board of London-based homelessness charity, Broadway.

Jon Sibson, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the university's Business School, says: "Sir Leigh's measured and thoughtful account of the distinctive contribution of the public sector was fascinating, enriched as it was by his experience from a long and distinguished career."

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Story by Public Relations