Queen congratulates Staffordshire civil servant for championing race diversity
16th November 2015
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A civil servant from Gnosall, Staffordshire who set up an innovative development programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff that saw 55% of participants get promoted in the first year has been recognised at an awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The Civil Service Awards ceremony, in association with Ernst and Young, was held on Thursday evening with the Queen and Prince Philip in attendance.

John Norcliffe,who works at HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Merry Hill telephony centre, wanted to increase the number of frontline Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) colleagues at management levels and so pioneered the ‘Embrace development day’.

‎As the leader of one of HMRC's most ethnically diverse locations, John recognised that if their staff didn't reflect the ethnicity of the public they serve they would lose public trust.

He widened out the programme to offer support to ambitious, long serving civil servants who, for whatever reason, had not progressed for many years. The initial pilot was so successful he helped roll the programme out to HMRC staff nationally.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, said:


“There has never been a better, or more necessary, time to celebrate the achievements of civil servants. All of tonight’s winners and nominees can be proud of the impact they have had on people’s lives. They are the perfect combination of the modern, fast-moving, evidence-based public service with the traditional Civil Service values of honesty, integrity and objectivity.


“With the awards now in their 10th year, I continue to be inspired, but not surprised, by the passion, imagination and ingenuity of civil servants, and the sheer range of our work.”


John said of winning the award: ‘‘I’m delighted to receive this award, not only for myself but also for HMRC, because it’s tangible evidence of our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Of course this kind of thing can’t happen without a great team around you so I’d like to thank both my senior team at Merry Hill telephony centre and everyone who gave up their time to help me deliver the development centres that led to this award”


Sandra Kerr OBE, Director of Race Equality at Business in the Community said of John’s win:“Congratulations to HMRC’s John Norcliffe on winning the Diversity and Inclusion Award at the Civil Service Awards. John is a great example of a how a race champion can have a such positive impact on diversity and equality in an organisation. It is inspiring to see how John has innovated, engaged his peers and delivered such an impactful programme that has increased the development and progression of BAME employees. He should be very proud of this achievement, and I hope that leaders in other sectors follow his example.”

The Civil Service Awards, celebrating its 10th anniversary, are a highly respected and prestigious cross-government programme to recognise and celebrate the wealth of inspirational individuals and innovative projects within the civil service. For the last 10 years, these unique and empowering awards help to spread best practice right across government, sharing innovation, learning and leadership.

Other outstanding work being recognised include projects and teams like:


  • The Working Out Team at HMP Standford Hill (an open resettlement prison) that worked innovatively to open up genuine job opportunities for prisoners in preparation for their release;

  • The Ebola Campaign, run by the Department for Health and Department for International Development, who ensured the public, NHS staff and other public servants who may have contact with a suspected case, felt reassured and informed.  

  • The Drug Driving project by the Home Office and Department for Transport, which is helping to make our roads significantly safer by making enforcement of suspected drug drivers more effective;

  • Teams within the Department for Communities and Local Government who set up two guarantee schemes aimed at getting additional homes built in the affordable and private rented sectors respectively, without using the traditional approach of government grants or loans;

  • Civil Servants improving the comfort, fit and overall mass of body armour, as well as significant cost savings for the department;

  • The Ministry of Justice’s Transformation of Rehabilitation, which is helping to break the cycle of crime and help save money;


The reception and the 2015 awards programme were supported by EY as a part of their commitment to recognising excellence in Government over the last ten years.

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