SIR Philip Rutnam, who resigned as permanent secretary today, said he would sue the government for his “constructive and unfair” exit.
The resignation came after the civil servant was recently caught in the vortex of a “toxic feud” involving Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was accused of “bullying” officials.
Turning emotional, Sir Philip said he had become the “target of a vicious and orchestrated campaign”, and accused Patel of behind-the-scene machinations.
“The home secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office. I regret I do not believe her,” he said. “She has not made the efforts I would expect to disassociate herself against from the comments.”
Sir Philip also denied any role in the “swirl” of “hostile briefings” against Patel.
He said: “It has been alleged that I have briefed the media against the home secretary. This—along with many other claims—is completely false.”
The outgoing permanent secretary said he tried to iron out issues with Patel, after the unusual interventions of Cabinet Secretary Sir Mar Sedwill and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“But despite my efforts to engage with her, Priti Patel has made no efforts to engage with me to discuss this,” he added.
He noted that “these events” gave him “very strong grounds to claim constructive, unfair dismissal—and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts”.
Sir Philip also clarified that he, indeed, had taken up allegations against Patel’s official conduct.
“One of my duties as permanent secretary was to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our 35,000 people,” he elaborated.
“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.”
Sir Philip said he turned down the Cabinet Office’s offer of a financial settlement to avoid his public resignation, adding that his decision “may help in maintain the quality of government in this country”.
Shona Dunn, who handled borders, immigration and citizenship at the Home Office, took over as acting permanent secretary.