A shake-up in Downing Street will see the Government’s entire approach to the pandemic run by two centrally-run committees, the Telegraph reports. The two committees will cover both strategy and operational delivery.
Conservative MPs have said the changes could weaken the influence of chief adviser Dominic Cummings who has been heavily criticised for making a 260-mile trip during lockdown to visit his parents.
The changes will allow the Prime Minister to tighten his grip on the fight against the pandemic after he was treated in intensive care for the virus.
The news comes amid heavy criticism over the government’s plans to quarantine new arrivals in the UK, while a test and trace app to track people infected with coronavirus has failed to materialise.
Boris Johnson is planning to hold high-level Brexit talks with president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen some time in June, according to reports.
Boris Johnson is set to make major changes to the government’s approach to the pandemic
A shake-up in Downing Street will see the Government’s entire approach to the pandemic run by two centrally-run committees
Mr Johnson recently appointed Simon Case, a key aide to the Duke of Cambridge, to a top permanent secretary role running 10 Downing Street ahead of the changes.
A new strategy committee – dubbed “CS” – will be chaired by Mr Johnson.
Meanwhile the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, will chair the new operations committee.
The new operations committee is known in Whitehall as “CO”.
The changes will allow the Prime Minister to tighten his grip on the fight against the pandemic after he was treated in intensive care for the virus
Both committees will be meeting on a regular basis, according to reports.
The new approach echoes the Government’s Brexit planning last year which was led by an “XS” strategic and “XO” operational committee.
The committees will replace four ministerial implementation groups, set up at the start of the crisis and covering foreign affairs, health, economy and business and public services, each chaired by a Cabinet minister.
The regular Covid-19 committee meeting, which has been held every morning at Number 10, is being axed.
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The news comes amid heavy criticism over the government’s plans to quarantine new arrivals in the UK
Boris Johnson is planning to hold high-level Brexit talks with president of the European Commission
Number 10 is also ending the weekend press conferences due to low audience figures.
The government will now only be holding them on weekdays and Mr Johnson will host one of them.
One source told the Telegraph the new structure would give a more “cohesive” approach to tackling the coronavirus crisis.
Officials wanted to maintain the weekday conferences because they are attracting more than three million viewers and listeners most evenings.
Coronavirus key message
One source said: “It is a prime time audience, and you would be foolish to give that up.”
A senior Tory MP said Mr Johnson’s shake-up was intended “to bring some order” to the decision-making process after a difficult two months.
The MP said: “Boris has decided that Cummings is there, but he is going to take more direct control. It is coming out of frustration – you are seeing his reawakening after a tough old time with the Covid-19 attack.
“He showed he had backbone [in backing Mr Cummings]. Cummings is not in a brilliant place – and he must know it. Boris knowing that makes him more determined to do it himself.”
Conservative MPs have said the changes could weaken the influence of chief adviser Dominic Cummings
The reforms will also free up some of the Prime Minister’s top team to focus on the Brexit talks.
Next month holds the final deadline for the the UK to decide whether to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year.
An anonymous official told the Financial Times that Johnson is under pressure to have a “broad agreement” in place by the summer.
The source told the paper: “We can’t still be having this conversation in September of October”.
The upcoming talks will be key, with an unnamed senior EU official telling the Guardian that there is a risk of “going into July with a major problem” if there was not some progress on both sides.
Published at Wed, 03 Jun 2020 02:54:00 +0000