The Cabinet Office is to split, with chunks of the organisation transferring to a department for the prime minister in a move civil service leaders have said will create “dedicated leadership, clearer accountability and greater focus on the two halves’ respective missions”.
In an email seen by The Times, civil service leaders confirmed Downing Street would take charge of economic, domestic, national security and intelligence policy, with officials reporting to No.10 permanent secretary Samantha Jones.
The Cabinet Office will serve as a “corporate headquarters” for the civil service and oversee reform, Jones, cabinet secretary Simon Case, and Cabinet Office perm sec Alex Chisholm told staff yesterday.
The machinery of government change will “enhance the support that is offered to the prime minister and the cabinet” and empower “the nerve centre” of government, they said.
The move appears to be the result of attempts to overhaul the No.10 operation, which Cabinet Office second permanent secretary Sue Gray called "fragmented and complicated" in the initial findings of her Partygate inquiry in January.
Gray’s full report is expected to be published next week ahead of parliament’s summer recess, now that the Met Police has concluded its investigation into Covid regulation-breaching gatherings at No.10 and in Whitehall during the pandemic.
The move also follows the appointment of Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay to a second role as the prime minister’s chief of staff in February.
The PM’s department will have a mission to “enhance the support that is offered to the prime minister and the cabinet, ensuring the capabilities required by the nerve centre of a modern government are staffed and deployed in the right way, streamlining interactions with departments, and modernising the operation of our system of cabinet government”, the email from the civil service leaders said.
“Through this change we will deliver some immediate benefits: dedicated leadership, clearer accountability and greater focus on the two halves’ respective missions,” they said.
The change is also partially a result of plans to cut the civil service headcount by 91,000, they acknowledged.
“We will need to lead from the front in meeting the goal the cabinet set last week to bring the civil service back to the size it was in 2016,” they said.