Treasury head Tom Scholar reappointed after year of perm secs churn

Second five-year term comes despite Scholar's appearance on reported No.10 "hit list" of top civil servants to be replaced
Photo: Parliament TV

Sir Tom Scholar has been reappointed as permanent secretary at the Treasury for a second five-year term.

Scholar's reappointment, first reported by the Telegraph, comes after a year in which he has led the government's financial response to coronavirus.

It comes despite reports that he had appeared on a "hit list" of perm secs that No.10 was keen to replace last year. Scholar is now the only one of the three names reportedly on the list still in the civil service, after Home Office chief Sir Philip Rutnam resigned in February and Foreign Office perm sec Sir Simon McDonald stepped down in the autumn when his department merged with the Department for International Development.

Cabinet secretary Simon Case, the prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak jointly decided to keep Scholar on, according to the Telegraph, announcing the decision to perm secs in a letter yesterday.

A Treasury source told the newspaper: “Tom and the chancellor have a great working relationship, but more importantly this is about delivering the right results and having the right team in place for this next phase of the crisis – and as we come out of it in due course."

Last year saw extraordinary churn among the top level of the civil service, with several perm secs leaving before their contracts were up. Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, Brexit department perm sec Dame Clare Moriarty and Department for Education head Jonathan Slater were also among those to depart in 2020.

Scholar's reappointment also follows the departure of Dominic Cummings as Boris Johnson's chief political aide. While perm sec appointments are made by the cabinet secretary and ministers, it was reported that Cummings clashed with several top civil servants during his time at No.10, and wanted to make radical changes to the way officials were hired.

Most notably, before becoming a special adviser, Cummings had called the idea of a permanent civil service one "for the history books" and said permanent secretaries should be abolished.

Scholar was first appointed to his role in 2016, when he was then-prime minister David Cameron's top adviser on Europe.

He has also previously worked as the Treasury's second perm sec, and Gordon Brown's principal private secretary when he was chancellor.

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