Patel hints at No 10 overhaul as rumours swirl of Cabinet Secretary exit
It is up to the Prime Minister to decide who should occupy the “big role” of Cabinet Secretary, said Priti Patel, as rumours swirled that current job holder Sir Mark Sedwill is to be ousted this week.
The Financial Times and the Sunday Telegraph reported that Sir Mark will step down from his post as the most senior figure in the Civil Service as soon as Monday.
It comes as Downing Street prepares for an overhaul of how the Cabinet Office and Civil Service functions, with Boris Johnson strongly tipped to break up the roles of Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser – positions united by his predecessor Theresa May.
Home Secretary Ms Patel, asked about the reports predicting Sir Mark’s departure, said: “Reform of the Civil Service is a matter that gets discussed in Government and obviously a big role like that is subject to the Prime Minister.”
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Ms Patel added that the PM would need the “right kind of support around him” to deliver on the Government’s “levelling up” priorities.
Hinting that changes could be afoot, Ms Patel said: “The fact of the matter is right now this Government is focused on getting on and doing its jobs, delivering for the country, levelling up, focusing on social justice.
“This is the people’s Government delivering on the people’s priorities and effectively any reforming government will be based around the type of delivery that our Prime Minister wants to drive for our great country and obviously have the right kind of support around him to deliver that.”
Number 10 on Saturday announced a series of reforms which will see Mr Johnson given a firmer grip over his Cabinet.
Mr Johnson will chair a number of new “strategic committees” as part of his Cabinet operation, which Government sources said would be “responsible for setting direction on the Government’s domestic, international and economic priorities”.
It appears Sir Mark, as part of the changes, could be set to make way for fresh blood with Simon Case, who was appointed permanent secretary in No 10 amid the coronavirus crisis, tipped to be promoted to replace him as cabinet secretary.
It was Mr Case rather than Sir Mark who was asked to carry out a review of the two-metre social distancing restriction, a piece of work which helped pave the way for the “one metre-plus” changes announced by the PM last week.
The FT claimed David Frost, Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser, was the front runner to become the national security adviser should Sir Mark lose both of his current roles.
Sir Mark’s removal would also be seen as a win for the PM’s chief aide Dominic Cummings who is, according to The Times, said to have told a meeting of political aides this week that “hard rain is going to fall” after explaining how he felt Whitehall’s “fundamental” shortcomings had been displayed during the coronavirus crisis.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “Sir Mark continues to work closely with the senior team to ensure that the Government receives all the advice that it needs.”