Maude out, Hancock in at Cabinet Office

Matt Hancock is to succeed Francis Maude as minister for the Cabinet Office, Downing Street has confirmed, as David Cameron put the finishing touches to his new Cabinet following the Conservatives’ election victory.

Hancock  – who previously served as a minister of state at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)  – will take forward the efficiency and civil service reform post at the Cabinet Office and will attend Cabinet.

He will also serve as paymaster general, while Oliver Letwin moves from his minister for policy role to taking “overall charge” of the Cabinet Office in what appears to be a split of the roles previously occupied by Maude. Maude – who remained in post the full five years of the last parliament, overseeing the creation of the Government Digital Service and procurement reform – is to take on a new role as minister for trade at the Foreign Office and BIS.

Cameron announced that Letwin would attend Cabinet as a “full member” in his new job of Duchy of Lancaster, but further details of how responsibility will be divided between the two ministers is currently unclear.

Hancock’s appointment has been welcomed by the Institute for Government think tank, who also paid tribute to the “extensive work and personal commitment” shown by Francis Maude over his five years in the job.

“Political leadership is crucial to securing lasting changes to the way central government operates and to building support in the civil service for reform,” said the Institute’s director Peter Riddell.

“Mr Hancock has already shown himself an energetic minister, encouraging apprenticeships and promoting business and innovation. He now faces big challenges, not only in achieving the large efficiency savings which the Conservatives promised in their election manifesto, but also in extending digital government and further reforming the operation of Whitehall.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, said Hancock would need to demonstrate “clear vision” of how the Conservatives’ plans for further spending reductions would be met, warning that the civil service “cannot simply be treated as a tool for deficit reduction”.

He added: “If it is to be smaller but more able, the government needs to outline how it will provide civil servants with the recognition, reward and resources they need to deliver the services the public expects.”

A spokesperson for the PCS union  – whose general secretary Mark Serwotka frequently clashed with Maude over changes to public sector pay and terms during his tenure –  meanwhile said that Hancock would have a “tough act to follow” in matching the outgoing MCO’s “capacity for disharmony”.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Labour’s Lucy Powell is to stay in post as shadow minister for the Cabinet Office following the party’s election defeat. Powell, who served as a key adviser to former leader Ed Miliband, has been in the job since November of last year, replacing Michael Dugher.

Colin Marrs

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