26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: ‘Orthodox’ Treasury chief sacked

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The Permanent Secretary of the Treasury has become the first casualty of Prime Minister, Liz Truss’s promised shake-up of the bureaucracy with Sir Tom Scholar announcing his exit.

New Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng said it was time for “new leadership”.

Ms Truss had repeatedly railed against “Treasury orthodoxy” during her leadership campaign as she promised tax cuts, despite warnings from rival, Rishi Sunak that they could fuel spiralling inflation.

Sir Tom (pictured) had worked under Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and was the top Public Servant when Mr Sunak rolled out the furlough scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a pointed reference to the energy crisis, Mr Scholar said he wished his colleagues at the Department “all the best for the times ahead”, adding that he would be “cheering on from the sidelines”.

Lord Macpherson, who previously held the top role in the Department, condemned the move, saying Sir Tom’s experience would have been invaluable in the coming months.

“Tom Scholar is the best Civil Servant of his generation,” Lord Macpherson said.

“Sacking him makes no sense,” he said.

“As Gordon Brown used to say, ‘They’re not thinking’.”

Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s brief but eventful stint in charge of Public Service reform has ended with his appointment as Minister for Business in Ms Truss’s reshuffle.

The freshly-installed Prime Minister appears to have abolished the Cabinet-level post of Minister for Government Efficiency and Brexit Opportunities.

Nadhim Zahawi has been named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the most senior Minister at the Cabinet Office after the Prime Minister and a role that usually includes overseeing Public Service reform.

Edward Argar, previously a Junior Health Minister, has been named Minister for the Cabinet Office, replacing Michael Ellis.

Ms Truss has not yet set out the precise division of labour between Mr Zahawi and Mr Argar, but both will have some responsibility for leading cross-Government and public sector reform and efficiency.

London, 11 September, 2022

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