Simon Case appointed cabinet secretary and head of the civil service

"The challenge for him is to restore trust in government and restore the civil service’s trust," former cab sec Gus O'Donnell says

Simon Case, the former private secretary to the Duke of Cambridge who was brought in as No.10 permanent secretary this summer to oversee the government's response to coronavirus, has been appointed the next cabinet secretary and head of the civil service.

Case, who was a principal private secretary to prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May before becoming director general for the UK-EU partnership in May 2017, returned to Downing Street in May after two years at Kensington Palace.

Case succeeds Sir Mark Sedwill, who has been in the post for nearly two years, when he leaves the civil service on 9 September.

Prime minister Boris Johnson officially confirmed Case's appointment this morning.

"Simon will make a fantastic cabinet secretary and head of the civil service. His years of experience at the heart of government and working for the Royal Household make him ideally suited for this crucial role," Johnson said.

"I would also like to thank Mark Sedwill for his outstanding service to the government and the country as a whole. After serving for decades with great distinction, I believe he has earned the gratitude of the nation."

Before leaving for his royal secondment in summer 2018, Case worked with the UK Representation to the EU leading the government's work on Brexit and the UK's future relationship with the EU, and led work on finding a solution to the post-Brexit Irish border problem.

Previously he was head of the Implementation Unit, the Cabinet Office unit set up to to support and coordinate departments’ work on key government policies, and director of strategy at the communications agency GCHQ.

Commenting on the appointment this morning, former cab sec Gus O'Donnell told Radio 4's Today programme: “It is a surprise to have someone so young but I congratulate him and he has a lot of experience inside No.10."

Lord O'Donnell said of the 41-year-old: “He’s had lots of different jobs so I’m sure he will grow into the role. I think the challenge for him is to restore trust in government and restore the civil service’s trust – that’s what he’s got to get.

“At the moment we’ve got ministers blaming civil servants for everything, talking about reform without explaining why they want that reform and what’s going wrong at a ministerial level.

“There’s a big task for him but he has the trust of the prime minister, that’s really important, and now he needs to get the trust across the civil service and his fellow permanent secretaries.”

The appointment follows a period of significant upheaval at the top of the civil service, which has seen seven permanent secretaries leave since February. The latest was Jonathan Slater, who was sacked as DfE perm sec last week following a row over the use of a controversial algorithm to award A-Level results.

Foreign Office perm sec Sir Simon McDonald stepped down last month, and Ministry of Justice perm sec Sir Richard Heaton announced in July that he would not seek reappointment at the end of his five-year term this summer.

Those departures come after the high-profile resignation of Sir Philip Rutnam from the Home Office in February, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government perm sec Dame Melanie Dawes's move to Ofcom the same month, and the departure of Clare Moriarty after the closure of the Department for Exiting the European Union at the beginning of the year.

Case said it was an "honour" to take up his new post.

"Over these few months of working on the Covid response, I have seen how much hard work is being done by the civil service to support the government and our country through unprecedented times," he said.

"It is a privilege to come into this role to lead a service that is working day in, day out to deliver for people right across the country.

"I’m grateful to Mark for the kindness and support he has given me in my career and I wish him well for his next chapter."

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