26 April 2023

Steve Barclay faces bullying claims from health department officials – report

26 April 2023

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has become the latest minister to face bullying allegations, with officials from his department having reportedly “raised concerns” about his conduct towards staff.

The Guardian reported that civil servants informally complained to the department’s top mandarin about how they were treated by Mr Barclay, while senior officials privately spoke of “bullying” and other “bad behaviour” by him.

Allies of Mr Barclay “totally deny” bullying. The Department of Health and Social Care said it had not received any formal complaints over the behaviour of its ministers, but did not deny being aware of informal ones.

It comes after Dominic Raab’s resignation as deputy prime minister and justice secretary last week when an independent inquiry found he had bullied civil servants.

Adam Tolley KC’s five-month investigation into eight formal complaints about Mr Raab’s conduct found he had behaved in a way that “undermines or humiliates” while foreign secretary and criticised the work of civil servant staff as “woeful” and “utterly useless” while justice secretary.

The concerns over Mr Barclay pre-date the release of the Tolley report, according to the Guardian.

The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying he was “challenging”, “constantly angry” and “hauls people over the coals and is generally a bit unpleasant”.

A source close to the Health Secretary said: “No complaint has been made.”

Asked whether they denied bullying, they said: “Totally deny.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The department has not received any formal complaints relating to the behaviour of its ministers.

“Any complaints, relating to ministers or members of staff, would be investigated in line with departmental guidance.”

These latest reports are deeply disturbing and must be investigated immediately by the Cabinet Office

In the wake of his departure, Mr Raab launched a tirade against “activist civil servants” who he claimed had the ability to stand in the way of the democratic mandate afforded to ministers.

The claims about Mr Barclay will prove troublesome for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose promise to restore “integrity” and “professionalism” to Government was called into question after Mr Raab became the third minister to leave his Cabinet since he took office in October.

The Liberal Democrats called for the “deeply disturbing” reports to be investigated.

Lib Dem spokesperson for Health and Social Care Daisy Cooper said: “This Government hasn’t got a shred of integrity left. Each day we see more chaos, more sleaze and more scandal.

“These latest reports are deeply disturbing and must be investigated immediately by the Cabinet Office. Britain has had enough of bullies running the country.

“Steve Barclay now joins a long list of Conservative Ministers to have allegations made against them for inappropriate behaviour.

“These latest reports cannot be brushed under the carpet by Rishi Sunak – he must launch an investigation immediately. No staff should ever be subjected to working with or for a bully.”

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