Case shakes up perm sec line management to 'bring the centre together'

Management split will "bring the centre together more effectively in setting the direction for government", cab sec says
Photo: Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

Cabinet secretary Simon Case has shaken up the management of the civil service’s top officials in a bid to ensure better coordination across government departments, he has said.

In a letter to parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Case said he had decided to split line-management responsibility for the permanent secretaries between himself, Cabinet Office perm sec Alex Chisholm and Treasury head Tom Scholar.

The new split will “bring the centre together more effectively in setting the direction for government”, Case wrote.

Case will manage top officials in security and foreign-policy roles, perm secs at the devolved administrations and those who provide legal and scientific advice, he said in a letter to PACAC. He will also line manage Scholar and Chisholm.

Scholar will meanwhile manage perm secs in economic and social policy roles and Chisholm, who is also civil service chief operating officer, will manage the rest.

“I do of course still meet regularly with all my permanent secretary colleagues,” the letter, sent last week but published yesterday, said.

While there has been a “custom for some time” for the heads of the Cabinet Office and Treasury to support the cabinet secretary with perm sec line management, Case said formally dividing up the task in this way is a “new arrangement”.

“We will keep it under review in the coming months,” he added.

He said the civil service leadership would take a “pragmatic approach” to the division of the three groups, “and if we need to review the overall allocation or individual relationships, we will do so.”

The letter was sent as a follow-up to Case’s appearance before PACAC last month, where he mentioned there was a split in line-management responsibilities. He told MPs at the time:

“I took the view, endorsed by the prime minister, that it was important that we brought the centre together in setting the direction for government, so it made sense for practical reasons as well as administrative reasons to share out the line management responsibilities between the three of us,” he told MPs at the time.

At the same evidence session, Case said he did not believe churn at the top of the civil service was an “underlying problem”, despite the departure of several perm secs in the last year.

“I do not think there is an underlying problem, but we have to remain ever watchful,” he said.

At the PACAC hearing, Case was also asked to provide evidence of his track record of improving diversity among officials in previous roles.

“Throughout my career I have championed diversity and sought to bring forward and support diverse talent,” he wrote in the letter.

He said that when he was PPS at No.10 between 2016 and 2017, all Downing Street senior civil servants were required to become mentors in the civil service Race to the Top scheme, which aims to support Grade 6/7 civil servants from a BAME background to progress their careers.

No.10 also introduced mandated gender-balanced recruitment panels and drove a campaign to improve declaration rates around that time, he said.

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