The dismissal of the Treasury official “retrograde and worrying,” says the former Whitehall chief

The dismissal of the Treasury official “retrograde and worrying,” says the former Whitehall chief

Sir Tom Scholar (UK Government / PA) (PA Media)

Sir Tom Scholar (UK Government / PA) (PA Media)

The dismissal of the senior Treasury official by the government of Liz Truss was condemned as “quite shameful”, “retrograde and troubling” by a former head of the civil service.

Former Whitehall chief and independent crossbencher Lord Kerslake said Sir Tom Scholar’s dismissal marked a “problematic” shift towards ministers installing public officials who agree with their views.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s move to oust Sir Tom on the first day of the new administration sparked a backlash in Whitehall.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Kirsty O'Connor / PA) (PA cable)

Kwasi Kwarteng (Kirsty O’Connor / PA) (PA cable)

Ms. Truss had previously railed against “treasury orthodoxy,” with the dismissal seen as a sign of her determination to change the direction of economic policy.

Lord Kerslake warned it would have a “chilling effect” on public confidence that ministers receive solid advice.

He told The Guardian: “What appears to have happened here is that they had an opinion on what they perceived his approach to the political side of things was, and they decided they didn’t want to have that kind of solid advice on matters.

It marks a new level of the growing trend of blaming civil servants and firing them

Lord Kerslake

“This is exactly what high public officials are for. Even more than before, senior public officials will be nervous about it and worry about solid advice being interpreted as political differences with their policies.

“It marks a new level in the growing trend of blaming civil servants and firing them, and essentially saying they want a senior civil servant who aligns with our personal views.

“I think it’s really problematic … I think there will be a chilling effect and the rest of the world will be less confident that decisions will be made based on solid advice.”

The peer joined a growing chorus of anger over the firing of Sir Tom, who worked in the civil service for three decades.

Lord Kerslake (Victoria Jones / PA) (PA Archive)

Lord Kerslake (Victoria Jones / PA) (PA Archive)

Lord Wilson, who led the service under Tony Blair, said in a letter to the Times: “To summarily fire a top key official, who is judged by most people to be exceptional, is destabilizing right now.

“It is contrary to established practice and is bound to create ripples as consequential moves occur.”

Lord Wilson also described as “ill-judged” an intervention by former Treasury Minister Lord Agnew, who defended the dismissal on Tuesday, brandishing Sir Tom as the embodiment of the “malign influence of Treasury orthodoxy.”

The deportation was also criticized by former cabinet secretaries Lord Butler and Lord O’Donnell.

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