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Top civil servant quits amid growing acrimony between Downing Street and the Whitehall machine 

The civil servant drafted in to run Britain’s pandemic response has quit, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Respected mandarin Tom Shinner is the latest high-profile figure to announce his departure in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Once dubbed ‘the Mr Big of Brexit’, Mr Shinner had returned to the Government in April, having left for the private sector after leading cross-Government preparations for a potential No Deal exit.

Respected mandarin Tom Shinner (pictured) is the latest high-profile figure to announce his departure in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis

Respected mandarin Tom Shinner (pictured) is the latest high-profile figure to announce his departure in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis

At the time, Whitehall trade magazine Civil Service World said his appointment was at the ‘personal request of Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill’.

Boris Johnson eased out Sir Mark from his role as Civil Service boss last month, amid growing acrimony between Downing Street and the Whitehall machine.

Last night, No 10 insiders insisted that Mr Shinner’s job was only a temporary secondment and the response to the pandemic was beginning to ‘wind down’.

One friend said he was contractually obliged to return to his job at a startup.

But a Whitehall source said: ‘There is a uneasy feeling in the building that those directly involved in the past few months are making themselves scarce before the inevitable post-mortem.’

Mr Johnson has conceded that the coronavirus crisis, and Britain’s high death toll, will be subject to a full inquiry in the coming months.

The Prime Minister is understood to have become increasingly frustrated with Sir Mark’s handling of the unfolding horror and Britain’s lack of preparation.

One ally told The Times yesterday: ‘One of the main things was that when Covid started to emerge as a major threat in February, a plan was asked for and there was no plan. That’s despite it being top of the risk register since 2008.

‘Where was the plan? Why was the person in charge of the risk register – who is not just the Cabinet Secretary but also the National Security Adviser – not on top of it? That’s his job.’

Sir Mark has pointedly refused to say his departure was voluntary, and it later emerged that he had received a £250,000 payoff.

Sir Mark (pictured) has pointedly refused to say his departure was voluntary, and it later emerged that he had received a £250,000 payoff

 Sir Mark (pictured) has pointedly refused to say his departure was voluntary, and it later emerged that he had received a £250,000 payoff

Legal experts said the size of the contribution to Sir Mark’s pension pot pointed to a potential threat of legal action behind the scenes.

Employment law specialist Tim Goodwin, a barrister at 12 King’s Bench Walk, said yesterday the payment’s ‘most likely purpose is to settle claims that Sir Mark has threatened to bring in the Employment Tribunal’.

Mr Goodwin added: ‘In that context, £250,000 is very high. The cap on an unfair dismissal claim is £88,519, so in order for his claim to be worth more than that, it would need to be a whistleblowing or discrimination claim.

‘We do not know what advice the Prime Minister has received, but that he describes the settlement as “good value for money” suggests to me that he has been advised that Sir Mark’s claim is a strong one and that he would likely be awarded a significant sum.

‘Given the likely costs of defending the claim, and considering the relatively low rates the Government pays external lawyers, I don’t think this is a case of paying out compensation simply to avoid legal costs.’

The Government is currently engaged in a bitter legal dispute with Sir Philip Rutnam, the former boss of the Home Office who resigned in February citing constructive dismissal.

Downing Street has refused to discuss the exact details of Sir Mark’s departure, beyond suggesting the decision to leave was mutually taken with Mr Johnson.

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