UK cabinet secretary accused of ‘failing to stand up for the values of the civil service’ as PM removes Treasury chief

By on 14/09/2022 | Updated on 14/09/2022
A profile picture of Simon Case

UK cabinet secretary Simon Case was been accused of failing to stand up for the civil service after the head of the Treasury was sacked by new prime minister Liz Truss.

Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng dismissed Tom Scholar on their first day in office, a move that sent shockwaves throughout the civil service.

In a letter to The Times, Sir David Normington, the former Home Office permanent secretary who also served as the first civil service commissioner and the commissioner for public appointments regulating appointments to public bodies, said that by sacking Scholar “the prime minister and chancellor have sent a clear message to the civil service that they are not interested in impartial advice and intend to surround themselves with ‘yes’ men and women”.

He added: “It is disappointing that the cabinet secretary, whom the prime minister apparently now intends to retain has acquiesced in the sacking and once again failed to stand up for the values of the civil service.”

It had been reported that Case would leave his role as cabinet secretary when Truss became prime minister, but has so far remained in post.

Read more: ‘She exemplified selfless leadership and public service’: World leaders pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

Other former senior civil service figures have also spoken out against Scholar’s removal. Former cabinet secretary Lord Robin Butler said Truss’s decision to sack Scholar had undermined the “experience and continuity” provided by the civil service at a time when the country needed it most.

“We have a new sovereign, we have a new prime minister, and we really need the cement that can hold this system together,” Lord Butler said.  

“I think the politicians are beginning to forget the constitution. The civil service is Her Majesty’s civil service. A government wouldn’t come in and on the first day sack the head of Her Majesty’s defence forces, the chief of the defence staff.”

Another former cabinet secretary, Lord Richard Wilson, said that “to summarily dismiss a key top official, judged by most people to be outstanding, at this moment is destabilising”.

In a letter to The Times, he added: “It is contrary to established practice and is bound to create ripples as consequential moves take place. It may affect morale; there has already been a distressing loss of talent over the past decade.”

Scholar’s predecessor as Treasury permanent secretary Lord Nick Macpherson called him “the best civil servant of his generation” in a tweet, adding: “Sacking him makes no sense. His experience would have been invaluable in the coming months as government policy places massive upward pressure on the cost of funding. As Gordon Brown used to say: ‘They’re not thinking’”.

Commenting after his sacking, Scholar said the chancellor had decided it was time for new leadership at the Treasury, and so he would be leaving with immediate effect.

“It has been the privilege of my career to lead this great institution since 2016. I wish the Treasury all the best for the times ahead, and I will be cheering on from the sidelines,” he added.

Read more: Tom Scholar appointed new permanent secretary of UK Treasury

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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