Whitehall HR boss sought amid Number 10 'tensions'

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Dominic CummingsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Boris Johnson's senior aide Dominic Cummings has said the civil service lacks people with "deep expertise in specific fields"

The Cabinet Office is recruiting a new civil servant to oversee HR policy for government ministers' special advisers.

The "high profile and stretching" £60,000-a-year role has been advertised after reports of tensions between the government and the civil service over recruitment and treatment of staff.

Duties include revising HR policies for special advisers, known as Spads.

It comes after PM Boris Johnson's senior adviser Dominic Cummings talked of a need to "upgrade" Spads' skills.

In a blog post in January Mr Cummings called for "weirdos and misfits" to work in Whitehall and said the civil service lacked people with "deep expertise in specific fields".

According to a report by Buzzfeed, the new Cabinet Office role - part of its Propriety and Ethics Team - has been created in response to concerns within the civil service about No 10's treatment of staff.

The Cabinet Office said the appointment would not affect how special advisers - political appointments traditionally made by individual ministers - were managed.

"In December 2018 the then government announced it would be reviewing how special advisers' terms could be made clearer and more consistent," it said.

"This is a routine appointment to the existing team to support this ongoing work."

The new recruit will work within the Cabinet Office's Propriety and Ethics team, "supporting" the code of conduct governing Spads, managing "complex and sensitive" employment cases and "liaising with legal advisers" when needed.

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Sajid Javid: I had no option but to resign

The BBC's political correspondent Jonathan Blake said the role of Spads has been under scrutiny since Mr Johnson became prime minister.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid "voiced his anger" to Mr Johnson when one of his Spads, Sonia Khan, was escorted from Downing Street by police after being sacked in August last year. No reason was given for her dismissal, but the BBC's Iain Watson said it was suggested the issue was about whether she could be trusted to be transparent with No 10.

Mr Javid resigned as chancellor earlier this month after rejecting Mr Johnson's demand that he fire his entire team of aides as part of a government reshuffle.

Just days later, there was a political row over Downing Street's hiring of Andrew Sabisky to work in an unspecified role, in light of comments he had made in the past about race and eugenics.

Mr Sabisky subsequently quit the role, saying he didn't want to become a distraction to the government's work, but his short-lived involvement led to calls for tougher vetting procedures for No 10 staff.