Priti Patel settles civil servant bullying case with £340,000 payout

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Home secretary Priti Patel has avoided the need for a bullying case against her to go to employment tribunal by settling it.

The agreement reached, according to various sources was that Sir Philip Rutnam will receive £340,000 plus his legal costs. Rutnam, a former chief civil servant at the Home Office, has now dropped the case.

He had resigned from his post as permanent secretary at the Home Office in February 2020.

Rutnam stated, through the FDA union: “I am pleased to say that the government has today settled the claims that I brought against them and which were due to be heard in an employment tribunal in September.

“This settlement resolves my own case. The FDA is continuing to pursue in separate proceedings the wider issues that have been raised.”

Rutnam had witnessed several incidents that he believed showed the MP for Witham was bullying staff. He had also accused Patel of creating a climate of fear at the Home Office and of creating a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him.

He had sought to bring an unfair dismissal case against Patel at an employment tribunal.

Patel has denied the bullying claims but also apologised for her alleged behaviour, saying “any upset I have caused was completely unintentional”.

The prime minister Boris Johnson has said that he did not think Patel was a bully, and had “full confidence” in her.

Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow home secretary, has written to Patel to ask exactly how much taxpayers’ money has been spent settling the case.

The Home Office said the government and Rutnam had “jointly concluded that it is in both parties’ best interests to reach a settlement at this stage”.

Last November an independent investigation, commissioned by the Cabinet Office after Rutnam had resigned from his post, was reported to have found that she “had not met the requirements of the ministerial code to treat civil servants with consideration and respect”.

The report, carried out by government’s independent adviser on standards, Sir Alex Allan – who subsequently resigned – has never been published. However, sources had told media outlets that the investigation found evidence of bullying.

At the time of the report, Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA senior civil servants’ union, told the BBC that civil servants would be asking what message it would send if the government said Patel did not have to resign.

In a separate case, the FDA continues to pursue judicial review of Boris Johnson’s decision to overrule his own ethics adviser in finding that Patel’s treatment of Rutnam did not breach the ministerial code of conduct.

It was the first time that a secretary of state had been set to be taken to an employment tribunal by a former permanent secretary, the most senior civil servant in a government department.

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One Response to Priti Patel settles civil servant bullying case with £340,000 payout

  1. Avatar
    Ifor Griffiths 6 Mar 2021 at 10:01 pm #

    Your article quotes the report by Sir Alex Allan, but chooses not to add the following quotes from his report which I now add in the interests of fairness:

    “The Home Secretary has also become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness”

    “The Home Office was not as flexible as it could have been in responding to the Home
    Secretary’s requests and direction. She has – legitimately – not always felt supported by the department”

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