Senior Policy Manager
The Audit Commission

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Marie O

Marie O, Senior Policy Manager at the Audit Commission. Well, I manage a small team of people who are mainly there to support the Chairman and Chief Exec of the organisation. We’re all about trying to keep on top of what’s going on in government, in parliament, and the kind of issues and policy developments that might affect what we do. And one of the fun things that we do is we also write their speeches, so there’s sometimes a chance to try and be a bit creative with some of that. The Chancellor will be announcing his pre-budget report next Monday. Our team on Monday will be watching that on the TV because within twenty-four hours we’ll need to put a briefing out on it. So probably the best thing of the job is that it kind of feels like it’s a bit caught up in current events.

00:00:39 When it came to choosing A levels, I really had no definite sense of direction, and definitely thought long and hard should I do sciencey stuff, or should I go the arts way. And then in the end kind of did a bit of both, and then happened upon economics, which I ended up really enjoying, in large part probably because I had an absolutely fantastic teacher, and that ended up being my degree subject, and kind of in some ways sort of influenced my path.

00:01:06 There was definitely a point where I had a careers interview where I talked with the careers advisor about the possibility of going into the Civil Service after university, which is what I eventually ended up doing. Nobody in my family kind of had done anything particularly similar, and if I’m honest I don’t think my parents were very keen on me coming to London. I think they’d have much rather I’d stayed up at home. But, no, I think my family always definitely just kind of encourage me and my brothers and sisters to kind of, sort of, do what interested us and just have a go, sort of, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

00:01:39 On the first day… I was working at The Treasury, which was my first placement, which was quite lucky in that it was, sort of, a big Whitehall institution. I went up to the canteen for lunch with some colleagues and Gordon Brown was in the canteen, who was the Chancellor at the time, and I’ve never been very, kind of, good around celebrities, in that I’m always kind of awestruck by them, and I remember just sort of standing there. It was almost as if it was a movie star or something like that. ‘That’s the Chancellor.’ The Chancellor said hello and I said hello back. I can’t tell you what I was doing work-wise that day, but I definitely remember, kind of, my first encounter with a politician.

00:02:14 I elected, slightly controversially at the time, to go on a secondment to the Department of Health. It just felt like an area of public services where things weren’t working very well, and, albeit there was a limited amount I could contribute at that stage, I kind of wanted to be part of an area of policy that felt like it was really important. It sounds really trite to say feeling it makes a difference, but I think there’s some truth in that. I think you choose this kind of route if, in some way, you want to make society a better place to live.

00:02:45 I kind of grew up in a mining town – Doncaster – and, vaguely, as a child, remember the miner strikes, and remembering that times weren’t very good and that people were having a hard time of it, and I think some of that maybe stayed with me. And being at school with lots of kids whose parents were very affected by that, I think that, as a series of events over a period of time when I was quite young, has always formed quite a significant backdrop for me.

00:03:09 If I could do something completely out of the box in the world, at some point I might be interested in doing voluntary service overseas. It’s something that I’d be quite scared to do, to be honest, in that it would be completely out of comfort zone, but the idea of doing something a bit like what I do here, but doing it sort of elsewhere in the world and kind of, I suppose, gaining personally from that experience but kind of giving your skills, I think that would be something that would be great to do at some point.

00:03:34 I was always a basketball player; I did a lot of netball at school and athletics. I’ve kept up with the netball. I’m probably not fit enough to play much basketball now, but there are lots of kind of, sort of, local netball leagues, and actually some work teams that I’ve been involved in, and I’m trying to learn golf at the moment, which is proving quite difficult. It’s a great but horrible game, the thing that kind of sold me on it was somebody told me not to be discouraged because learning to play golf is an investment in your retirement.

00:04:02 I think it’s important to do something which… on some level that you believe in. So, I mean, for the Civil Service it’s quite easy to say that you believe in public services and that you want to contribute to that, and for other jobs that might not be as obvious, but I do think it needs to be something that genuinely interests you, and that you do have to get up every day and go and do that. Every job is going to have days which sort of feel tougher than others, so I think it’s important to sort of, I don’t know, believe in it.


Marie O is a Senior Policy Advisor at The Audit Commission. She grew up in Doncaster, and her parents weren’t keen on her coming to London to be a civil servant. On her first day of her first placement, at the Treasury, she was awestruck when she came across Gordon Brown, who was Chancellor at the time, in the canteen.

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? Job holders in this unit group undertake a variety of administrative and clerical duties in national government departments, and in local offices of national government departments.
Entry is possible to junior grades within this group with GCSEs/S grades, and/or relevant practical experience; higher grades require A levels/H grades or equivalent, although many entrants are graduates. NVQs/SVQs, apprenticeships and professional qualifications are available for certain areas of work.
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