A top civil servant in the British Home Office headed by Priti Patel has quit making serious allegations against the home secretary’s conduct and way of functioning. Sir Philip Rutnam, who was the senior-most civil servant in the home office, stunned everyone by going public with his resignation. He also made it abundantly clear that he will soon mount a legal battle for what said was his ‘constructive dismissal.’
Reading out his written statement, Sir Rutnam said, “I have this morning resigned as permanent secretary of the Home Office. I take this decision with great regret after a career of 33 years.
“I am making this statement now because I will be issuing a claim against the Home Office for constructive dismissal. In the last 10 days I have been the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign. It has been alleged that I have briefed the media against the home secretary. This, along with many other claims, is completely false.”
He also went on to allege that Priti Patel was responsible for the nasty campaign against him adding that he did not believe her even though she has denied the allegations.
“The home secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office. I regret I do not believe her. She has not made the efforts I would expect to dissociate herself from the comments.
“Even despite this campaign, I was willing to effect a reconciliation with the home secretary, as requested by the cabinet secretary on behalf of the prime minister. But despite my efforts to engage with her, Priti Patel has made no effort to engage with me to discuss this.”
The top civil servant went on to add that he will now pursue his case legally seeking compensation for ‘constructive dismissal.’
“I believe that these events give me very strong grounds to claim constructive unfair dismissal, and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts. My experience has been extreme but I consider there is evidence it was part of a wider pattern of behaviour,” Sir Rutnam added.
He said that one of his duties as the permanent secretary was to ‘protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our 35,000 people’ adding that this ‘created tension with the home secretary, and I have encouraged her to change her behaviours.’
“I have received allegations that her conduct has included shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands – behaviour that created fear and that needed some bravery to call out. I know that resigning in this way will have serious implications for me personally – the Cabinet Office offered me a financial settlement that would have avoided this outcome,” he continued.
Sir Rutnam’s stunning resignation comes just days after several media reports said that Patel’s behaviour had caused quite a lot of tension within her civil servants and many were reluctant to share intelligence inputs with her claiming that they did not trust her.
Earlier, Sajid Javid had preferred to resign after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly asked him to sack all his advisers. Experts say that the resignation of Sir Rutnam may make Patel’s position as home secretary untenable in the future.