Role of No10 permanent secretary returns after eight-year gap

By on 22/05/2020
Case’s appointment will provide Boris Johnson with more direct support on policy and cross-department oversight. (Image by Andrew Parsons, No 10 Downing Street via flickr).

Simon Case, former principal private secretary to Theresa May and private secretary to Prince William, has been appointed as Number 10 permanent secretary, with responsibility for the implementation and delivery of the UK’s COVID-19 policies. 

The Spectator – which was edited by current PM Boris Johnson between 1999 and 2005, and retains close links to his camp – reports that the thinking behind the appointment is that Case will give No. 10 “more of a grip” on the cross-government response to the coronavirus crisis.

A government spokesperson said: “The Cabinet secretary, with the agreement of the prime minister, has appointed Simon Case as permanent secretary at 10 Downing Street. Simon is extending his secondment from the Royal Household and will be supporting the prime minister and Cabinet in developing and implementing the government’s coronavirus response.”

It was reported last month by the Telegraph that Case had left his role as private secretary to Prince William to return to the Cabinet Office to lead work on ensuring that the ‘nonshielded vulnerable’, including food bank users and potential victims of domestic violence, are getting adequate support during the lockdown.

Case joined the UK civil service in 2006. He was appointed as the prime minister’s principal private secretary in January 2016, shortly before David Cameron quit following his EU referendum defeat, and went on to serve Theresa May. He was also private secretary and later deputy principal private secretary to the prime minister between 2012 and 2014, when Cameron headed the Coalition government.

In 2018, he became director general Northern Ireland and Ireland in the now defunct Department for Exiting the EU, and served as UK Sherpa for the G7 and G20. He was previously director general at UKRep for the UK-EU Partnership; director of strategy at intelligence agency GCHQ; and has had postings with the Northern Ireland Office and the Cabinet Office, where he was director of the Implementation Group.

Case’s appointment fits with plans by Johnson – emerging in a series of briefings from those close to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and lead special adviser Dominic Cummings – to strengthen the power of Number 10, among other reforms. However, it looks as much like a pragmatic response to weak Number 10 performance as a bid to extend the PM’s influence across government.

Although the appointment was briefed to the Spectator as a “newly created role”, in fact the job of Number 10 permanent secretary was previously held by the late Sir Jeremy Heywood between 2010 and 2012. In that role, Heywood played a key role in managing the development and implementation of policy across government, brokering compromises between clashing ministers and departments, and keeping the prime minister informed of emerging threats. In light of the government’s many missteps in tackling coronavirus and the country’s very high death rate, few are likely to question the appointment of an experienced, widely-respected civil servant to bring greater cohesion to the centre’s contribution to tackling COVID-19.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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