Pitchford takes on Universal Credit role
Major Projects Authority chief set for key three-month stint to safeguard project's progress
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that the executive director of the Major Projects Authority, David Pitchford, is to take charge of the delivery of Universal Credit on an interim basis from today.
Pitchford will stay initially for a three-month stint until a permanent replacement is appointed. He joins chief information officer Andy Nelson - previously at the Ministry of Justice - as the latest recruit to the government's flagship benefits project.
Effectively, Pitchford and Nelson are jointly replacing Philip Langsdale, DWP's highly respected CIO, who passed away just before Christmas last year.
It is understood that DWP officials are keen to scotch any suggestions that the appointment of Pitchford - whose forte is the tracking and performance of major projects, including IT projects - means Universal Credit is behind schedule.
Deadlines for the project, however, are tight, with pathfinder schemes due to go live in April and initial rollout of Universal Credit set for October.
Details of Pitchford's appointment are believed to have been approved at the highest levels of government, with prime minister David Cameron and cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood keeping a close watch on Universal Credit's progress.
A DWP spokesperson said, "David Pitchford will be temporarily leading Universal Credit following the death of Philip Langsdale at Christmas. This move will help ensure the continued smooth preparation for the early rollout of Universal Credit in Manchester and Cheshire in April. A recruitment exercise for a permanent replacement will be starting shortly."
In Pitchford's absence, the day-to-day running of the Major Projects Authority will be handled by Juliet Mountford and Stephen Mitchell, with oversight from government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly. Pitchford will retain overall responsibility for the MPA's activities.