Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation (HMPP), has tendered his resignation after the permanent secretary decided that it was the right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role.
He will be leaving at the end of March 2019, after 35 years in the service and nearly nine years leading it.
It comes after inspectors found conditions in prisons across England and Wales to be the worse they had ever seen as authorities failed to take action over high levels of violence, self-harm and drug use.
Announcing the decision, permanent secretary of HMPP Richard Heaton said: Michael’s leadership has been exemplary. But we now need to look ahead, building on Michael’s work and developing a strategy for the next decade.
Justice secretary and lord chancellor David Gauke said: I am extremely grateful to Michael Spurr for his leadership of HMPPS. His focus has been unwavering on doing the best for his staff and for victims of crime, on discipline in the prison estate and on caring for and rehabilitating offenders.
He is an example of the very best of public service and civil service leadership. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Michael into the New Year.
He added: Whoever takes over will face the same fundamental problems of overcrowded and under resourced prisons. Those are problems which only ministers can address and none of those whom Michael has served so faithfully have delivered.
Anyone who thinks the problems in our prisons can be solved by a change of leader is deluding themselves.