Skip to main content

Lord Bob Kerslake obituary


The University of London was saddened to hear of the passing of Lord Bob Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, who died on Saturday 1 July 2023.

A Visiting Professor at Kings College London’s Policy Institute, Lord Kerslake played a key role in the Civic University Commission. This examined the economic, social, environmental, and cultural role universities play in the towns and cities where they are located - what it means to be a ‘civic university’ in the 21st century.

A native of Bath, Lord Kerslake spent much of his career in local government, including his becoming the chief executive of both Hounslow and Sheffield councils, the latter of which is the fourth largest in England. Knighted for services to local government in 2005, the Guardian described him as “one of England’s most visionary local authority chief executives.” 

On moving into national government, he became permanent secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government in 2010. Later he held several other prominent positions, including chair of governors of Sheffield Hallam University, joining the board at the Peabody housing group, and chairing the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. He also chaired an independent review into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. 

A regular guest on television and radio, Lord Kerslake was known for his challenge to government and ministers over a number of issues, notably the handling of Covid-19. Having been given a life peerage in 2015, he sat in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wendy Thomson CBE, said: 

We have lost an outstanding public servant with the passing of Bob Kerslake. He was a pleasure to work with and someone I have looked to for advice and support since we started out at the GLC and went on to work in local and central government, and most recently in higher education. He will be missed.

Born on 28 February 1955, Lord Kerslake died of cancer on 1 July 2023. He leaves a wife, son, and daughter.