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Tue, 31 March 2020

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Priti Patel 'tried to oust top Home Office official' amid row over her treatment of staff

Priti Patel 'tried to oust top Home Office official' amid row over her treatment of staff
2 min read

Priti Patel has been accused of creating an “atmosphere of fear” inside the Home Office as it was claimed she tried to remove her most senior civil servant from his job.

The Times reports that Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has been asked to intervene after Ms Patel called for the removal of the department’s Permanent Secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam.

The Home Secretary has meanwhile been accused of taking an angry and aggressive tone in meetings, with several sources telling the paper that she had placed unrealistic demands on her staff. 

A Home Office source said Ms Patel was a rude and “extraordinary person to work for”, adding: “No one can see how this is going to be resolved. It is going to blow up sooner or later.”

Another said: “Sir Philip and [Ms Patel] have fundamental disagreements about the rule of law. He’s committed and she isn’t. She’s belittled him and caused consternation, and she frequently encourages behaviour outside the rule of law.”

A Home Office spokesperson said there had been no “formal” complaint lodged against the Home Secretary, while allies of Ms Patel took aim at Sir Philip and rejected claims of bullying.

Referring to the sacking of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd over her handling fo the Windrush scandal, an ally of Ms Patel: “The Home Office is dysfunctional and the current permanent secretary had presided over a sacking of a home secretary and accidental deportations. 

“If this were any other environment Philip Rutnam would not only be sacked he’d be denied a pension. The lack of accountability in the civil service is deeply troubling and the prime minister will not accept this in the long term.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have not received any formal complaints and we take the welfare of our staff extremely seriously.”

Ms Patel has previously been sharply critical of the civil service, with a source close to her arguing in 2017 that some officials “are paid almost twice as much as the Secretary of State to do their job and yet they do not take full responsibility for their actions and screw ups”.

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