Tributes to Lord Bob Kerslake

“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.”

Will Hutton FAcSS President of the Academy of Social Sciences

“I first got to know Bob when he became Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council and I was PVC at the University of Sheffield. I had the greatest fortune to work closely with him when I became Chair of Sheffield Homes Ltd taking on responsibility for all Sheffield’s Council housing including a major capital spending programme. His thirst for good analysis and data as the keystones for decisions made him an excellent colleague to work with. This led us to jointly set up the University of Sheffield’s Public Sector Club which he agreed to co chair. We dined each month with joint presentations from an academic working on a public policy research issue and someone in the public or not for profit sector for whom this was a policy responsibility. We had long and productive discussions to the mutual benefit of academics and public sector colleagues. When Bob moved to the HCA and then to the civil service we kept in touch and continued to exchange ideas and discuss the latest research findings. We will miss him greatly for his energy, his humanity and his intellect but above all for his enduring commitment to making life better for everyone.”

Professor Tony Crook CBE FAcSS FRTPI Emeritus Professor of Town & Regional Planning & Public Orator, The University of Sheffield.

“Bob’s untimely death is sad and tragic. He has done so much and yet had so much left to do. He was involved with many organisations, old and new, large and small, and seemed to have an endless capacity to support and advise. One such organisation was the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) founded in 2012 at the University of Sheffield. I was SPERI’s co-founder and co-director for the first several years of its work and sought to alert Bob to our founding and draw him into our orbit from the start. He responded willingly to every request over the succeeding years, engaging not only with senior staff but with any of our researchers and research students who made contact with him.  Our various publications on the British political economy, on industrial strategy, on the Treasury and other associated issues benefited often and considerably from his knowledge and guidance. As everybody knows, Bob loved Sheffield and committed much time to supporting its two universities. SPERI was greatly honoured that he attended the meeting and subsequent party with which we celebrated our 5th birthday at the Bank of England. Thanks for everything, Bob.”

Professor Tony Payne FAcSS Emeritus Professor of Politics and former Co-Director of SPERI, University of Sheffield

“I met Bob Kerslake en passant just once and saw him speaking only on a couple of occasions and yet – despite that fleeting acquaintance – I feel that, with his death, the UK has lost someone special.  What stands out for me is the sheer character of the person.  The obituaries – at AcSS and elsewhere – speak of his great service, humility, professionalism and integrity.  I would only add, too, his modesty and selflessness.  Completely lacking in any me-ism, Bob Kerslake always had his eye on the big picture, doing what he could to help the world be a better place.

One of the many major commitments that Bob Kerslake took on was the chairing of the Commission inquiring into the possibilities for the civic role of universities.  The major report that ensued – ‘Truly Civic: Strengthening the connection between universities and their places’ – was informed by research, not least that put in hand by the Commission, and serves as a particular achievement for those interested in the future development of higher education.”

Professor Ron Barnett FAcSS Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society

“I first met Sir Bob as he was then in 2013, when I took on the role of NAO VFM Director responsible for the vfm audit of DCLG and for exercising new powers of the NAO after the abolition of the Audit Commission. It’s never comfortable for a government department and its Accounting Officer to be reported on and particularly not then as the debate over local government and its funding, in the context of 10 years’ worth of funding reduction 2010 to 2020 was acerbic. We also spent much time on local economic growth, Local Enterprise Partnerships and housing.  Bob supported the role of external audit, always listened carefully to what we were attempting to do and took action on the published reports. He was excellent to deal with and welcomed NAO input to audit committees and the like. Later on when I asked for input to a research project he was very generous with his time and views. A true gent: wonderful knowledge and understanding of public services and a profoundly ethical approach to all he did.”

Aileen Murphie FAcSS Director, DCLG & Local government value for money at UK National Audit Office

“The Learned Society is deeply saddened by the news of Lord Kerslake’s death. Bob Kerslake was a career public servant who was always approachable, knowledgeable and helpful to anyone who sought his advice.

His career spanned a range of local and central government appointments including CEO of the London Borough of Hounslow and Sheffield City Council, CEO of the Homes and Communities Agency, permanent secretary of the Department for Communities and Local Government, Head of Civil Service and most recently as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords. His knowledge and breadth of experience across all levels of government was truly exceptional and his wisdom and support will be greatly missed by all in the public administration and public policy community.

Bob Kerslake will be remembered for being a wholly committed public servant dedicated to serving the public interest. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Dr Ian C. Elliott Chair of the Joint University Council (JUC)

“I was saddened to hear of his death – everything I heard about his contribution to the many roles he took up and took on was positive – indicative of the qualities of integrity- fairness and working for the common GOOD – a kind and highly effective leader of major important organisations – the world made better by his principles & endeavour. Condolences to his family and friends.”

Professor Emeritus Valerie Hey FAcSS Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Sussex

“Bob Kerslake will be missed by so many people and at so many different levels of national and local public service. After coming to Sheffield to take up the post of the Council Chief executive he adopted the city and the city adopted him. Sheffield remained his home when he moved to the Civil Service which took him through housing and local government to become Head of the whole of the domestic UK Civil Service.

His bravery in continuing to give public service to the end is a measure of Bob’s commitment to others. I personally counted him as a friend and will miss the measured and influential contribution he made to the House of Lords as a Crossbench Peer.”

The Rt Hon Lord David Blunkett FAcSS Member of the House of Lords

We invite Fellows of the Academy to add their own short tributes to this page, by emailing them to