Shropshire Star

Parties reminded to uphold impartiality of Civil Service amid election rows

Top civil servant Simon Case warned the political parties not to drag the Civil Service into campaign rows.

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Cabinet Secretary Simon Case (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)

All political parties must agree to uphold the impartiality of the Civil Service during the General Election campaign, the UK’s top civil servant has said following a spat about the cost of Labour’s proposals.

Simon Case called on the parties vying for power not to drag the Civil Service into political rows during the campaign.

The Cabinet Secretary’s reminder came in a letter to Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden, following an argument over the costings of Labour’s election offer.

“Upholding the impartiality of the Civil Service is a duty rightly shared by both the Civil Service itself and all political parties,” he wrote to Mr Holden.

“I would therefore be grateful for your ongoing assistance, and that of your counterparts in other parties, in protecting our impartiality during the election period.”

The Tory chair shared his correspondence with Mr Case on social media site X, after asking him to confirm that the Prime Minister did not lie when he said Labour’s election offer would cost an extra £2,094 in tax to each household over the course of the next parliament.

In an ITV debate last week, Rishi Sunak had claimed that “independent Treasury officials” have costed Labour’s policies “and they amount to a £2,000 tax rise for everyone”.

Senior Labour figures, including shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, claimed this was a lie.

The figure comes from analysis by the impartial Civil Service of spending estimates about Labour’s policies provided by special advisers, who are political appointees of the Conservative Party in Government.

Budget 2024
Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden leaves Downing Street (James Manning/PA)

Mr Case referred to this process in his correspondence with Tory chair Mr Holden.

The analysis suggested Labour’s plans had a £38.5 billion deficit over four years, the equivalent of £2,094 for every working household, which the Tories claim would be filled with tax hikes.

The Office for Statistics Regulation, which previously warned political parties to use figures appropriately during the campaign, has said the Conservatives have failed to make clear their calculations.

The Treasury’s permanent secretary James Bowler meanwhile said ministers had been told not to suggest civil servants produced the figure, because it went beyond the official work they carried out.

Labour says many of its policies will not cost anywhere near as much as the Conservatives suggested in their dossier.

Responding to Mr Holden’s exchange of letters with the Cabinet Secretary, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer made a joke referencing a recent television interview the Tory chair took part in.

“Did he get through the whole clip without being stopped by his adviser on that particular occasion?” Sir Keir said.

Referring to the letter, the Labour leader added: “I think he forgot to mention page two, which said that these were all Tory assumptions that were pumped into the machine in the first place.

“So, there’s no escaping this. What the Prime Minister said – unfortunately, because it is a moment of great regret when the Prime Minister lies – he claimed that it was independent Civil Service analysis.

“It wasn’t, he knew he shouldn’t have said it, he was told he shouldn’t have said it, it’s a lie. I don’t say that lightly.”

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