Steve Barclay denies “totally false” claims that he mistreated government employees

Steve Barclay - Cover images

Steve Barclay – Cover images

Steve Barclay has denied claims that he mistreated public employees, calling them “totally false”.

The allegations emerged just days after Dominic Raab said the inquiry that forced him to resign had set a threshold for bullying so low that it “encouraged false complaints against ministers”.

The Guardian reported that officials at the Department of Health and Social Care had “raised concerns” about Mr Barclay’s alleged conduct towards civil servants.

He said officials had “informally complained” to the permanent secretary about the health secretary’s “misbehavior” since he joined the department last summer.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Mr Barclay said the claims were ‘totally false’

An insider said, “There has been no complaint of any kind to the permanent secretary. No one has filed a complaint.”

When asked about The Guardian’s suggestion that the concerns fell short of a “formal” complaint, they said: “Either you make a complaint or you don’t – you don’t engage in office gossip.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The department has not received any formal complaints relating to the behavior of its ministers. Any complaints relating to ministers or staff members would be investigated in line with departmental guidance.”

“That’s not how I’ve seen him behave”

The Guardian quoted Whitehall sources as saying Mr Barclay had regularly ‘blasted’ staff in full view of others in the office.

A source was quoted as saying, “Barclay’s style is very macho… He would say it’s forensics. But in reality he is a micro-manager. He drags people over the coals and is generally a bit nasty.

Officials who worked with Barclay recently said they did not recognize the photo. One said, “It’s not how I’ve seen him behave, or how he’s behaved towards me.”

An official who worked with him in the cabinet office said: “I do not recognize the behavior in these allegations at all. He has set high standards for his teams but has never been unreasonable.

“He was always a professional with high standards and high expectations – that’s not unreasonable. He wrote notes to people to thank them personally when a job was done well, not asking the private office to write it for him, but taking the time to write them by hand to show his appreciation of him.

Tory MP Andrew Lewer said: ‘I’ve always found Steve courteous. Yes, he has a strong sense of focus, but he’s never even come close to being rude.”

“We live in dark times”

When Mr Raab resigned last week, he wrote to Rishi Sunak: “By setting such a low threshold for bullying, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent. It will encourage false denunciations of ministers and will have a chilling effect on those who lead change on behalf of your government and ultimately the British people.”

Craig Mackinlay, Tory MP for South Thanet, said: ‘It would appear that a campaign of whispers has begun against another Secretary of State who, in various departments, has been industrious, demanding overdue action to promote change.

“The playbook on how to defenestrate a senior minister has now been written and has proven effective. We live in dark times for representative and democratic government.”

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