Honorary Doctorate of Law
Ann Chant was born in Blackpool. When family circumstances meant she was unable to go to university, she took a temporary clerical job at the then National Assistance Board, a predecessor of the old DHSS. It was to be the start of a distinguished public sector career that spanned over 40 years and saw her rise to the upper echelons of Whitehall as Director General of HM Revenue and Customs.
Ann quickly moved into junior management and spent the 1970s and 80s widening her experience at both the DHSS and the Department of Health. In 1983, she moved to DSS headquarters in London; in 1985 she was appointed principal private secretary to the Department's Permanent Secretary. She was then tasked with setting up a separate unit to deal with National Insurance contributions, and in 1989 became Chief Executive of one of the first Executive Agencies, the Contributions Agency. "I love running things!" she says. "I'm very much the sort of person who likes to lead teams that perform well. It's great to watch people develop their skills and grow in confidence".
Those leadership qualities were to stand her in good stead for her next career move. The Child Support Agency was launched in 1993, and got off to an extremely rocky start. There was widespread public and political opposition, and the first chief executive stood down after just a few months. Ann was asked to step in and within a year had turned the troubled Agency around, restructuring the board and management and introducing operational changes that led to a dramatic upturn in performance. She got the thanks of a cross-party Select Committee when she left three years later.
From the CSA, she stepped out of the public sector for a while with a two year stint as a managing director of Business in the Community. That experience convinced her of the need for corporate social responsibility within the public as well as the private sector. When she joined the then Inland Revenue in 2000 as its Deputy Chairman, she was therefore determined that the organisation should lead the way for Corporate Social Responsibility in Whitehall, something it has continued to do to this day.
Ann acted as the Chairman of the Inland Revenue for much of 2004 and was then charged with overseeing the merger with HM Customs and Excise that led to the formation of the 90,000-strong HM Revenue and Customs in 2005. Her final act was to implement a corporate social responsibility strategy and structure for the new Department, building on the work she had done at the Revenue.
Now, in her retirement, she remains as active as ever. As Deputy Director of Charities for HRH the Prince of Wales for four years, she was responsible for assisting more than 20 non-profit organisations set up by Prince Charles and remains a Special Advisor to HRH. She is Deputy Chairman of the venerable Athenaeum Club, and the Chairman of its Executive Committee. She was a lay governor at LSBU for nine years. "My mother was brought up in Peckham," she says. "So there was a strong family connection with the area. But I also felt, following on from my corporate social responsibility work at the Revenue that I wanted to support a university with a vocational ethos and that prioritises its relationships with local employers." Ann was made a Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Bath in the 1997 New Year's Honours list.
For her dedication to improving some of the country's most vital public services and for her significant contribution to the work of this University, Ann Chant was awarded a degree of Honorary Doctorate of Law at London South Bank University.