Sir Mark Sedwill: UK’s top civil servant steps down

Sir Mark Sedwill welcomes Boris Johnson to Downing Street after he became prime minister in July 2019 Image copyright PA Media

The UK’s top civil servant, Sir Mark Sedwill, has confirmed he plans to stand down from the role in September.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, he said it was the right time to go as the government moved to the next phase of its coronavirus recovery plan.

His exit follows reports of tensions between him and senior members of Boris Johnson’s team.

The senior civil servants’ union, the FDA, said Sir Mark had been undermined in a “cowardly” way.

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman accused unnamed Downing Street officials of briefing against Sir Mark.

He added: “Not only is it a self-defeating and corrosive tactic, it’s also a cowardly one, safe in the knowledge that those who are briefed against are unable to publicly respond.”

He said the government would be “weaker as a result” of Sir Mark’s departure.

Sir Mark’s other role as national security adviser will be taken by Mr Johnson’s chief Brexit adviser David Frost.

Dominic Cummings, regarded as the Prime Minister’s most influential political adviser, has long called for an overhaul of the civil service.

And in a speech on Saturday, Michael Gove, attacked what he called “group think” within its ranks.

Skip Twitter post by @bbclaurak

Announcement about Sir Mark Sedwill’s departure expected at around 6pm – Govt will return to having a separate Cabinet Sec + National Security Adviser – Sedwill won’t go straight away but big news in govt circles

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) June 28, 2020


End of Twitter post by @bbclaurak

As cabinet secretary, Sir Mark advised the PM on implementing policy and the conduct of government.

A career diplomat, he served as Ambassador to Afghanistan during a 20-year career in the Foreign Office. He took over as cabinet secretary at short notice following Sir Jeremy Heywood’s death in November 2018.

Image copyright MOD Image caption Mark Sedwill was appointed by Theresa May in November 2018

He had previously worked alongside former PM Mrs May as the most senior civil servant in the Home Office.

After he leaves government service in September, Sir Mark will be made a peer while he will also chair a new panel on global economic security when the UK assumes the presidency of the G7 economic group of nations.

A number of top civil servants have either left their posts or are set to depart in the coming months after the Conservatives’ resounding election victory in December.

Philip Rutnam is suing the Home Office for unfair dismissal after quitting in February while Simon McDonald is leaving the Foreign Office in September following its merger with the Department for International Development.

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