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Sat, 30 May 2020

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By Hft
By Dods General Election Hub 2019

Government appoints new civil service official amid criticism of Dominic Cummings

Government appoints new civil service official amid criticism of Dominic Cummings
2 min read

The move comes amid mounting controversy over Cummings' management style

A senior civil servant is being appointed to improve the working conditions of government special advisers, it has emerged.

The move comes amid mounting controversy over the management style of Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's top aide.

Mr Cummings has been criticised for telling special advisers - known as "spads" - that they need to "toughen up" following reports that some had sought counselling for stress.

He was also codemned by Lynn Davidson, a spad at the Ministry of Defence, over comments he made at a meeting ahead of the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Cummings said "I'll see half of you next week" - a reference to the fact that many of them would lose their jobs when the minister they worked for lost their jobs.

It has now emerged that advert has been placed on the government website for a £60,000-a-year "special advisers' policy lead".

According to Buzzfeed, they will have to produce new human resources (HR) policies for special advisers based on “treating everyone with respect”.

They will have to “manage complex and sensitive ER [employee relations] cases and provide advice to senior leaders, ensuring legislation/process is followed”.

The job ad also says the successful candidate will need to “create an inclusive working environment where all opinions and challenges are taken into account”.

A Downing Street source said: "Arrangments for spads have been undergoing change for some time - this is not new."

But Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, told PoliticsHome: "The decision to build some dedicated HR support for special advisers is a long overdue reform. Whilst they will welcome dedicated HR support - like any group of employees - this is meaningless if it does not go hand-in-glove with improvements in how they are managed. 

"Special Advisers are temporary civil servants who play a critical role in supporting ministers and protecting the impartiality of the civil service. They deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. Unless this changes, greater HR support will simply paper over the cracks of poor management practices and a dysfunctional structure, where they are appointed by ministers but accountable to the Prime Minister’s chief special adviser."

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