Great Britain

Whitehall seeks HR boss amid growing tensions

The Cabinet Office is advertising for a new civil servant to oversee HR policy for government ministers’ special advisers as tensions grow between Number 10 and the rest of Whitehall.

The Special Advisers’ HR Policy Lead role, described as “high profile and stretching”, has an annual salary of £60,000.  

The advert says the role is to “revise and embed a full suite of HR policies, processes and principles”.

In what appears to be a thinly veiled rebuke to the management style of Boris Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings, the ad also says the successful applicant will need to “create an inclusive working environment where all opinions and challenges are taken into account”.

A Whitehall source told BuzzFeed News the role has been created in response to concerns within the civil service about the treatment of special advisers by Number 10, and the belief that the prime minister’s team has broken employment law.

BuzzFeed News also reports that special advisers have been in contact with the FDA trade union to discuss their treatment at the hands of Downing Street aides.

Last week, Cummings shocked government advisers by claiming that anyone suffering from “personal crises” should leave their jobs, saying their roles were incompatible with personal issues such as bereavement.

The ministry of defence adviser Lynn Davidson criticised Cummings for his “unkindness” after he upset special advisers by telling them at a meeting that he would “see half of you next week”.

It was also revealed last week that some special advisers have sought counselling due to the stress of their jobs, and others are planning their departures from government.

Cummings has long been an outspoken critic of the civil service, repeatedly voicing his disdain for Whitehall and Parliament.

In 2014, after leaving his role as an adviser to Michael Gove at the Department for Education, Cummings said of the civil service: “Everyone thinks there’s some moment, like in a James Bond movie, where you open the door and that’s where the really good people are, but there is no door.”

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