Home Secretary Priti Patel embroiled in bullying allegations row

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A bullying allegations row has broken out over the home secretary’s alleged treatment of her department’s most senior civil servant.

Priti Patel tried to remove permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam from the role after they had a series of arguments, according to the Press Association.

She is also facing accusations of belittling officials, making unreasonable demands and creating an “atmosphere of fear”, according to The Times.

The sign outside the Home Office in Westminster, London, following the resignation of Amber Rudd who resigned as Home Secretary amid claims she misled Parliament over targets for removing illegal migrants.
Image: The Home Office said no formal complaint had been made against Ms Patel

Ms Patel and Sir Philip had “fundamental disagreements about the rule of law”, the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

But an ally of the home secretary told PA they “did not recognise” these claims.

And the Home Office said no formal complaint had been made against her and it takes staff welfare “extremely seriously”.

Matters reportedly came to a head last week when an unnamed senior official collapsed after a meeting with Ms Patel, following an all-night effort to reverse a High Court ruling barring the deportation of 25 foreign criminals to Jamaica.

The official was confronted by Ms Patel who demanded to know why the Home Office had failed to reverse the ruling, The Times said.

He fell ill later in the day and when checked over at a hospital was found to have a sodium deficiency, believed to be because he drank too much water while working late.

Department for Transport (DfT) permanent secretary Philip Rutnam answers questions at the House of Commons Transport Committee over the fiasco surrounding the West Coast rail franchise.
Image: Sir Philip Rutnam, pictured in 2012, is the Home Office permanent secretary

A source told PA that staff were exhausted after working all night but dismissed claims the meeting was heated.

Instead they described it as “constructive”, with officials being asked to work on finding solutions to making sure the situation did not occur again.

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said he had known Ms Patel for 25 years and praised her for being someone who’s “utterly professional, works night and day to deliver for the country”.

“She is a brilliant, collegiate team player,” he told LBC, adding when asked if she was a bully: “No, I don’t think she is at all.”

But Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, said staff at the Home Office were “working flat out”.

“Putting undue pressure and demands on committed public servants that are already overstretched does not make for good government and will do this administration no favours in delivering its policy priorities,” he added.

“Ministers have to recognise the consequences of their behavior.”

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