Relocation and a representative civil service: Five minutes with Corin Robertson from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

By on 17/03/2024 | Updated on 18/03/2024

Corin Robertson, director general, finance and corporate, at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, discusses making the civil service more geographically diverse, career advice, and lessons from international partners.

This is part of a ‘Five minutes’ series featuring speakers from this week’s Global Government Forum Innovation conference (London, 19-20 March). At the event, Robertson will participate in a session on relocation and how moving civil service jobs out of London and the South East can drive regional rebalancing.

What are you most interested in discussing at Innovation 2024?

Our shared government ambition around the Places for Growth agenda, i.e. moving more roles out of the South East and ensuring that we build a civil service which is diverse and representative of the country that we seek to serve.

What drew you to a career in the civil service? 

I wanted to make a difference, and to play a part in making the world, and the UK, a better place.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your working life? 

Work hard, be kind.

Read more: ‘AI will transform the civil service’: Five minutes with Jeremy Pocklington, the UK’s energy security and net zero permanent secretary

What advice would you give someone starting out in the civil service? 

Have a plan for your career and be ambitious for yourself, but be prepared to be flexible along the way as ‘life’ happens, and don’t be afraid to grasp opportunities when they come your way.

What do you like most about working in the civil service? 

The people – we have some of the most brilliant, committed and passionate people I’ve ever met.

Which country’s civil service or which government department or agency are you most inspired by and why? 

France. They have a real sense of pride in themselves and what they do. I think we could sometimes do with a bit more of that.

Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that’s helped you and your colleagues? 

We have learned from our Five Eyes partners in how we run consular operations which support British nationals in need overseas.

What attributes do you most value in people? 
Kindness.

Register now: Innovation 2024

Which three famous people, alive or dead, would you most like to invite to a dinner party?  

Margaret Attwood, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy.

If you weren’t a civil servant, what would you be?  

Novelist.

What’s your favourite thing to do at the weekends?  

Zumba.

What is your most treasured possession?

My books.

What is your dream holiday destination? 

Tropical beach holiday.

What was the first piece of music you bought?  

Black Betty by Ram Jam.

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