No10 'will hand back control of special advisers to ministers'

The Cummings clearout: No10 ‘will hand back control of special advisers to ministers’ as maverick aide’s legacy is dramatically torched

  • Special advisers had to report directly to Dominic Cummings under old regime
  • But new regime led by acting chief of staff Edward Lister is tearing up old rules
  • Means special advisers will once again report directly to ministers, not No10 

Downing Street is set to hand day-to-day control of Government special advisers back to ministers as the new Number 10 regime takes a sledgehammer to Dominic Cummings’ legacy. 

Mr Cummings changed the contracts of special advisers – politically appointed aides who help ministers – when he first took the job as Boris Johnson’s right hand man.  

The changes meant that special advisers reported directly to him and he was in charge of discipline. 

The set up caused massive tension and distrust across Whitehall because some ministers feared their aides were effectively spying on them and reporting back to Mr Cummings. 

But just days after Mr Cummings left Number 10, the new regime led by acting chief of staff Sir Edward Lister is said to be preparing to relinquish control of advisers in a bid to boost morale.  

Boris Johnson’s Downing Street is undergoing an internal reset following the departure from the Government of the PM’s chief aide Dominic Cummings

Special advisers reported directly to Mr Cummings during his time in Number 10 but the new regime is said to be scrapping the system to put more power back in the hands of ministers

The Times reported that Downing Street is planning to revert back to the pre-Cummings way of working. 

That will mean that while special advisers ultimately report to the Prime Minister, day-to-day control over conduct and discipline will be delegated to ministers.    

One source told The Times that the move would allow advisers to ‘do the best for their ministers’ and would give them ‘more day-to-day independence’.   

A senior Government source told the newspaper the hope is the move will ‘make the Government a nicer place to work’. 

They said: ‘The culture towards special advisers as well as the contracts are going to change. 

‘There is an acknowledgement that government has been quite a demoralising place to work sometimes.’ 

The shake-up is part of a wider internal reset inside Number 10 following the departure of Mr Cummings. 

Politico reported that Mr Johnson yesterday told aides to increase engagement with Cabinet ministers and Tory MPs. 

The PM is said to want to get ministers more involved in the decision-making process after many felt sidelined under the old regime.

Mr Johnson has made Sir Edward Lister his acting chief of staff and he is overseeing the shake-up

He also wants to win over disillusioned Conservative backbenchers who have rebelled against the Government on a wide selection of issues in recent months. 

Mr Johnson held virtual talks with the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs last night and he is expected to meet with more groups in the coming days. 

Private talks with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, are also believed to be in the diary.    

A Government source told Politico that ‘none of this would have ever happened before’ under the old regime and that the operation had ‘opened up literally overnight’.

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