The Academy is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Lord Bob Kerslake who passed away over the weekend. Bob was a champion for the social sciences, an outstanding public servant and the Academy was privileged to have him as a Trustee since 2019. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family at this difficult time.
Stephen Aldridge, FAcSS, Trustee of the Academy provided the following tribute:
“It was with great sadness that I learnt Lord Kerslake – Bob Kerslake – passed away after a short illness on 1st July.
Bob Kerslake hailed originally from Bath. But he went to university in the Midlands gaining a first-class degree in Mathematics from the University of Warwick. That background contributed, I’m sure, to his logical and structured approach to problem solving, his thirst for evidence, and his enthusiasm and support for the social sciences – which he later supported through his membership of the Academy of Social Science, including his service on the Academy’s Council where his wise counsel served it well.
After university, Bob Kerslake went into local government working for the Greater London Council. He later held posts as Chief Executive first of the London Borough of Hounslow and then of Sheffield City Council.
It was during his time as Chief Executive at Sheffield City Council that I first heard of him and the contribution his leadership was making to improvements in the authority’s performance and service to its community. I got to know him better when he subsequently became head of the then Homes and Communities Agency and better still when he was appointed Permanent Secretary at the then Department for Communities and Local Government.
Sir Bob, as he then was, joined the Department in 2010. It was a challenging time as a new Government had just taken up office and the programme of the Coalition Government needed to be defined and delivered against a backdrop of a tight fiscal context. But Sir Bob’s local government experience made him well equipped for that role. He had first hand experience of delivering public services and of leading and managing a large workforce through change during challenging times.
That experience had given him the expertise, professionalism and perhaps crucially the empathy to see through the changes in the role and size of the Department that were needed.
He was a true professional, always accessible, and available to give advice to his team. It was a privilege both to work and learn from him over these years. He had a particular enthusiasm for data, evidence, and analysis from which I and my team greatly benefited.
Alongside his role as Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities and Local Government, Sir Bob took on the role of Head of the Civil Service from 2012 to 2014. Another major challenge but he took it in his stride.
After leaving the Civil Service in 2015, Lord Kerslake took on a multiplicity of roles including: President of the Local Government Association, Chair of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Chair of the Board of Governors at Sheffield Hallam University, and Chair of the Independent Commission of the Manchester Arena Bombing. But he also took on a number of other roles, which were perhaps less immediately high profile, but which provided important thought leadership and helped to engage the social sciences in public policy, including: Chair of the UK 2070 Commission on UK spatial disparities and Chair of the International Advisory Board of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence – roles in which I saw him make a real difference to the quality of evidence, analysis and research available to policymakers.
Lord Kerslake will be missed by those who knew him, but we’ll be determined to build on his legacy. Our condolences to his family.”
Will Hutton, FAcSS, President of the Academy, said:
“Bob Kerslake was a terrific man – a great public servant who had the public interest, integrity, fairmindedness and profound sense of duty hard-wired into his DNA. At everything he did he brought intelligence, hard work, commitment and wise judgement. Apart from his well-documented public achievements, he was an unstinting advocate of the social sciences and their capacity for good – and the loss of his wise contributions as a Trustee and member of the Academy of Social Science’s Council is irreplaceable. He will be sorely and sadly missed. My condolences – and from all at the Academy – to his family. He was truly one of us and our lives are the less for his death.”
We have opened the following tribute page and invite Fellows of the Academy to send their own short tributes by emailing them to email@example.com.