MoJ perm sec Antonia Romeo 'lined up for Treasury top job'

Romeo is Kwasi Kwarteng's favourite to replace Sir Tom Scholar, according to reports
Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Antonia Romeo is Kwasi Kwarteng’s top pick for the Treasury top job, according to reports.

The chancellor is expected to announce the new Treasury permanent secretary this week, after sacking Sir Tom Scholar hours after coming into office.

Officials understood to have been interviewed for the job include Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs perm sec Tamara Finkelstein; James Bowler, who replaced Romeo at the Department for International Trade when she moved to the MoJ last year; Department for Work and Pensions perm sec Peter Schofield; and Jeremy Pocklington, the top civil servant at the Department for Levelling Up.

But Romeo, who was DIT’s most senior official when PM Liz Truss was trade secretary is likely to become the Treasury’s first female perm sec, the Telegraph reported this weekend.

As a civil service leader, Romeo has said her priorities include “bringing in the best talent, creating genuine progression and opportunities for that talent and setting a culture of purpose”.

Delivering the CSW Leadership Lecture last year, she also stressed the importance of delivering on the then-prime minister and chancellor’s priorities by “delivering efficiencies and prioritising as well as innovating”.

“You can’t just do that through efficiency savings. We need genuine service delivery transformation so we can operate the same services at a reduced cost,” she said.

Last week, chief Treasury secretary Simon Clarke indicated that these will continue to be priorities for the government as he said departments would need to "look for efficiencies wherever we can find them”.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "We will announce the new permanent secretary in due course once they’ve been appointed."

'It will be a brave civil servant who will want to question the chancellor'

The reports come as Sir Leigh Lewis, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, lent his voice to the chorus criticising the chancellor’s decision to oust Scholar.

Announcing his departure earlier this month, Scholar said: “The chancellor decided it was time for new leadership at the Treasury, and so I will be leaving with immediate effect.”

Lewis warned the move showed a “misunderstanding” by ministers of the civil service’s role to give “frank, fearless and honest advice to ministers and then absolutely to follow the directions and the instructions that ministers give”.

“It will be a very brave Treasury civil servant [who will] want to question anything the chancellor has said,” he told Times Radio.

“I think his sacking was highly damaging. And I think it was much more significant than simply the sacking of one civil servant,” Lewis said.

“And I think, most importantly, it truly is a worrying and total misunderstanding, actually, on the part of the new prime minister and the chancellor of the role of the civil service.”

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