Simon Case taking several weeks off with 'private medical matter'

Several perm secs to temporarily take on each of his responsibilities, reports suggest
Simon Case. Photo: PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

23 Oct 2023

Cabinet secretary Simon Case is off work for several weeks on medical leave, the Cabinet Office has confirmed.

The top civil servant's absence comes as Rishi Sunak’s government wrestles with a series of challenges, including the rapidly escalating Israel-Palestine conflict.

Several permanent secretaries will temporarily take on each of Case's responsibilities during his time off, rather than a single official standing in for him as cab sec, according to Politico, which was first to report on the absence.  

CSW understands that this arrangement reflects the relatively short length of time for which Case is expected to be absent.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The cabinet secretary is taking a short period of leave because of a private medical matter and is due to return to work in a few weeks."

Case was due to appear at the Covid Inquiry in the coming weeks, where he would have likely been questioned on WhatsApp messages published earlier this month which revealed his frustrations during the pandemic. Evidence published by the inquiry showed the cab sec had written that the government “looks like a terrible, tragic joke”; claimed that the then-PM Boris Johnson’s partner “is [the] real person in charge”; and said, “I’m not sure I can cope with today. Might just go home.”

Case was appointed cab sec by Johnson in September 2020, taking over from Mark Sedwill, who had quit, and becoming the youngest ever top official in the UK civil service.

His time in charge has included most of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the Partygate controversy, having to recuse himself from carrying out the inquiry into the allegations due to his own involvement. He avoided a fine for attending a No.10 gathering that then-chancellor Sunak and then-PM Johnson were handed Fixed Penalty Notices over. 

Recent public comments from the cab sec have included coming to the defence of civil servants,  slamming criticism of officials as “insulting and dehumanising”, during a Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee session with MPs earlier this year. 

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