29 June 2020 | UK NEWS
Top Civil Servant Sir Mark Sedwill announced last night that he would step down from his position at the end of September.
It comes amidst a Government push for sweeping reforms of the Civil Service, which gives the resignation added significance. There have also been reports of tensions between Sedwill and members of the Government.
In a letter penned to the Prime Minister, Sedwill wrote:
“Two years ago, when my predecessor fell ill, your predecessor asked me to step in as Cabinet Secretary, and you asked me to continue to support you through Brexit and the election period.
“It was obviously right to stay on for the acute phase of the Covid-19 crisis. As you are setting out this week, the Government’s focus is now shifting to domestic and global recovery and renewal.”
In his response to this letter, which was handwritten, Johnson said:
“You have done it all in Whitehall: from Afghanistan to the modernisation of the Civil Service; from immigration policy to Brexit and defeating coronavirus.
“After serving for decades with great distinction – and unflappable good humour – I believe you have earned the gratitude of the nation.”
In response to the resignation, Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister Helen Hayes said that Sedwill had performed with dedication in “difficult times”.
She went on to say: “On the day it was revealed millions of jobs across the country could be under threat in the coming months, it is very concerning Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are preoccupied with reshuffling Whitehall.”
Sedwill’s current position of National Security Adviser will be assumed by David Frost, the man currently negotiating the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.
In Sedwill’s other role of Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark has had the task of advising the PM on implementing policy and the conduct of government. He was appointed to this role by the then-Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018.
Two other high-ranking civil servants have also left their posts following the Conservative victory in the last election. Philip Rutnam is suing the Home Office for unfair dismissal after quitting in February, while Simon McDonald is set to leave his position in September following the Foreign Office’s merger with the Department for International Development. Last night’s resignation has been seen by some as a further sign of heightened tensions between the Civil Service and the Government.
The revelation of Sedwill’s resignation comes days after a report by the Daily Mail, which stated that Cummings had told colleagues “a hard rain is coming” for the Civil Service. The full scale of this statement is yet to be revealed, but again may suggest a potential reason for Sir Mark Sedwill’s resignation.