Boris Johnson’s newly-appointed No.10 permanent secretary is looking to significantly reduce the number of senior officials who work directly for the PM, according to a report.
Samantha Jones, who was hired as interim Downing Street perm sec in February following Cabinet Office second perm sec Sue Gray’s preliminary report on the Partygate scandal, is understood to believe No.10’s central operations need to be reined in.
Gray’s report flagged fragmented leadership structures and ballooning headcount at No.10 as part of the backdrop to the lockdown-busting events that have so far seen more than 80 fixed penalty notices issued to politicians and officials, including Johnson himself.
Jones, who is a former NHS trust chief executive, was hired with a brief including the overhaul and streamlining of structures that support the prime minister and cabinet.
According to a report in the Times, senior officials working in No.10 have been briefed this week that dozens of them are facing transfer to the Cabinet Office.
It said no decision had been made on who will be asked to move, but the paper suggested sources had indicated the Downing Street delivery unit, data unit and some policy officials were contenders for transfer, as was the press office.
The Times quoted one source describing the plan as “bonkers” and guaranteed to lay the ground for a “massive fight”.
"Anyone who moves into 70 Whitehall will consider their job not worth having," they said.
Over the past three decades the number of people working in No.10 has increased from roughly 150 under John Major to more than 200 people today, including about 40 aides who work directly for the PM.
Gray’s interim Partygate report in January said the structures that support the smooth operation of No.10 Downing Street had “not evolved sufficiently” to meet the steady increase in staff numbers.
“The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability,” she said. “Too much responsibility and expectation is placed on the senior official whose principal function is the direct support of the prime minister. This should be addressed as a matter of priority.”