Top Home Office boss resigns and hits out at Priti Patel

PUBLISHED: 10:11 29 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:48 29 February 2020

Former civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Former civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Sir Philip Rutnam, the top civil servant at the Home Office, has quit following allegations that the home secretary Priti Patel had bullied staff.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel delivers a speech during the National Police Chiefs' Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint summit, in London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireHome Secretary Priti Patel delivers a speech during the National Police Chiefs' Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint summit, in London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam said there had been an "orchestrated campaign" against him in the government department, and said that he "did not believe" that his boss was not involved in that campaign.

The civil servant of 33 years used a statement to announce plans to sue Patel's department for constructive dismissal.

The resignation came after reports Patel had mistreated officials, with the Times claiming multiple sources had accused her of bullying.

Sir Philip said he had "encouraged" the home secretary to "change her behaviours" as his duties included "protecting the health, safety and well-being" of staff.

He said in his statement: "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 effort I would expect to dissociate herself from the comments.

"Even despite this campaign I was willing to effect a reconciliation with the home secretary."

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He continued: "My experience has been extreme but I consider there is evidence that it was part of a wider pattern of behaviour.

"I have received allegations that her conduct has included shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands.

"Behaviour that created fear and needed some bravery to call out."

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He warned that he would be taking the department to court over "constructive, unfair dismissmal".

He said: "Priti Patel has made no effort to engage with me to discuss this.

"I believe these events give me very strong grounds to claim constructive, unfair dismissal and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts."

The home secretary has denied claims of 'bullying' in her department.

A spokeswoman for the department said neither the Home Office or the Cabinet Office had received any form of "formal" complaint about the allegations.

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