15:56 GMT07 August 2020
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    The UK’s most senior civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill has been reportedly at odds with Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and was suggested by sources as a likely scapegoat for a spate of failings amid criticism of Downing Street's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

    The UK’s most senior civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill, who doubles as Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser is reportedly set to announce his departure within days, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

    Seen by sources as part of an anticipated revamp of the civil service spearheaded by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief aide Dominic Cummings, Sedwill’s future could be clarified as early as Monday, reported the outlet.

    Earlier on Saturday it was reported that Cummings had recently lambasted “fundamental problems in the Whitehall machine” in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, warning political aides that a “hard rain is going to fall”.

    Downing Street has been mulling an outsider to replace Mark Sedwill, claimed sources cited by The Sunday Times, suggesting “someone from the business world”.

    It is also believed to be understood that if Sedwill loses his position of Cabinet Secretary, he will give up the role of National Security Adviser as well.

    “He is a career securocrat and I expect will either step back into the national security role — which I think is unlikely — or step back completely. He’s not at heart an administrator,” a source is cited by The Sunday Times as suggesting.

    According to The Sunday Telegraph, the UK civil service chief is aware he has “lost one half of his job”.

    “He is fighting to keep the national security one but they want to take everything off him,” the outlet reports.

    ‘Suggested Scapegoat’

    The future of Britain’s most senior civil servant, who has held the post of cabinet secretary since 2018, sparked speculations as on 26 June Downing Street refused to confirm that Mark Sedwill would serve as cabinet secretary in 2021.

    Sedwill was reported as having increasingly been at odds with Cummings and suggested as a scapegoat amid public inquiry into how the government handled the COVID-19 pandemic, including shortcomings in areas such as testing and tracing capacity and equipment supply.

    “Mark has been at the heart of all the decision making, the good and the bad. I can’t see how he escapes a lot of the blame when the inevitable inquiry begins,” an official was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

    The Cabinet Office declined to give an official comment, issuing a statement that said:

    “The cabinet secretary continues to work closely with his senior team to ensure the government receives the best advice.”

    Johnson to ‘Reset’ Government

    The developments come as Boris Johnson announced a looming overhaul of Whitehall on 27 June, with three strategic committees to be set up, focusing on domestic, international and economic priorities, as the Prime Minister seeks to “reset” his government in the wake of the pandemic to shift focus on post-Brexit issues.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the M&S clothing department and other retail outlets in Westfield Stratford to see the COVID-19 measure taken before reopening tomorrow, in London, Britain June 14, 2020.
    © REUTERS / POOL
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the M&S clothing department and other retail outlets in Westfield Stratford to see the COVID-19 measure taken before reopening tomorrow, in London, Britain June 14, 2020.

    The committee structure had been chosen by 10 Downing Street after “the successful model that the Government has been using during the coronavirus response, as well as to deliver and implement the British public’s decision to leave the EU”, government sources were reported as saying by The Telegraph.

     

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    Tags:
    Whitehall, Theresa May, coronavirus, COVID-19, Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Mark Sedwill
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