How government works: demystifying the structures and responsibilities in Whitehall, Westminster and beyond

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July 12, 2024

Understanding how Whitehall and Westminster work can be a daunting challenge. Even those who have been interacting professionally with government for many years can find some of the practices, procedures, conventions and relationships complicated to navigate.

This webinar provides easy-to-digest information on who does what, and how, in government.

It provided a simple summary of everything from constitutional frameworks to the organisational structures and interactions, and onto operational procedures, people and power. The session also looked at how to interact with these institutions and people in the most appropriate and effective ways.

You also had the opportunity to ask questions about any aspect that you are unclear about: How is the government’s agenda set, and by whom? How do departments of state really function? How is policy made? How does the civil service interact with the government? How does the government interact with parliament? What is royal assent for bills? Who decides what powers and independence regulators have?  

This session is a great opportunity for all those whose work brings them into contact with the worlds of Whitehall and Westminster to understand how government works in a simple and easy-to-digest format.


Zoë Collier, Global Government Forum Associate Policy Trainer

Zoë Collier has worked for over 30 years in and with the UK civil service and many international administrations. She started her career as a fast stream policy advisor to ministers in the Treasury (Finance Ministry), then moved across to the UK diplomatic service, where she served in the British embassy in Athens, and after that she headed up the Strategy Unit at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. She was Private Secretary to a Cabinet Minister, managing his policy portfolio and working long hours alongside him in Parliament, the department and meetings with stakeholders. She went on secondment to the UK’s National School of Government as a senior lecturer in policy and government. That was when she discovered her passion for training.

She now designs and delivers training courses and coaching internationally in policy and strategy development and all the issues associated with it, including policy communication and briefing, stakeholder management, negotiation skills and political thinking. Since 2012, she has run a suite of workshops for the Council of the EU on Political Thinking and Writing Political Briefings.

Zoë has run a wide range of training and consultancy programmes in many countries across the globe, from Africa, to Asia, to the US. Since the start of the pandemic she has adjusted her training techniques to embrace the virtual world and is proficient in delivering quality, engaging training on MS Teams and Zoom.

She has also worked in the private sector, as director of a major public relations company, and in the voluntary sector, as Trustee of a community charity, and independent member of her local government council.

Seminars that Zoë runs for Global Government Forum include:

James Humphreys, Global Government Forum Associate Policy Trainer

James is a director of the research and engagement consultancy Woodnewton. He specialises in strategic communications and behaviour change, particularly in health and the environment, though his clients range from John Lewis to GCHQ.

Before co-founding Woodnewton, he was Head of Corporate Communications in the Prime Minister’s Office, responsible for a wide range of policy and communications including digital enablement and employee engagement. His achievements included launching the first cross-government brand and the first mobile app for government.

Prior to that he was a career civil servant in the Department for the Environment, working on regional development, housing and environmental protection. He also spent two years based in Brussels as environment attaché at the UK Representation to the European Union. He wrote a book based on his experience in this role: Negotiating in the European Union: How to Make the Brussels Machine Work for You.

He was a Visiting Professor of Government at the City University London from 2005 to 2009 and launched a Masters in Political Communication, Advocacy and Campaigning at Kingston University. He has also served as chair of the IVCA (now EVCOM), the trade association for the visual communications industry, and as a trustee of the Woodland Trust.

Having worked in such very senior and varied roles, he understands the priorities and constraints facing government and public bodies, and his experience means that he can engage effectively with senior decision-makers from all over the world. James speaks at events on a wide range of subjects and he works as a professional trainer on topics such as policy, strategic planning, strategic communications, behaviour, engagement, strategic implementation, impact assessment and evaluation.

Seminars that James presents for Global Government Forum include:

Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.