Dark Mode
Tuesday, 21 May 2024
Peer behind PM’s Whitehall review defends links to Greensill director
Lord Maude is reviewing the Cabinet Office for Boris Johnson.

Francis Maude says he ‘might have’ spoken to Bill Crothers since launching review of spending

The Conservative peer conducting changes in Whitehall for Boris Johnson has defended his relationship with Bill Crothers, the former senior civil servant who has been drawn into the Greensill lobbying row.

Francis Maude is undertaking a review of the Cabinet Office for the prime minister.

During David Cameron’s first term, he was minister for the same department – and was instrumental in hiring Crothers for a senior role in the civil service to help curb government spending.Crothers spent three years as chief commercial officer in the Cabinet Office under Maude, overseeing about £40bn of taxpayers’ money, for which he was paid £149,000 a year.

He took a part-time board advisory role with Greensill Capital, now at the centre of a lobbying scandal involving Cameron, in September 2015 – while he was still employed as a civil servant. He later became a director of the company.

Maude disclosed he was responsible for picking Crothers to work in the Cabinet Office in 2011 as ministers sought to implement Cameron’s austerity programme.

“I gathered together a collection of the best commercial directors from around Whitehall and he was one of them. He was one of the capable commercial directors who had a big contribution to make by saving taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Asked whether he had spoken to Crothers since launching a review which includes government spending, Maude said: “I might have had a conversation with him … I can’t recall.”

Crothers, a fast-talking, Belfast-born accountant who came in from the management consultancy Accenture, entered the Cabinet Office as the chair of the Crown Commercial Service.

Sources said he was friendly with Maude from the start of his tenure, and the pair were seen as part of a small group of senior civil servants and politicians who were pushing for major changes to the civil service.

In 2012, Crothers was promoted to be the government’s chief commercial officer after Maude approved the post. Crothers was known as an abrasive negotiator, unafraid of upsetting major suppliers or fellow civil servants.

Maude left the Cabinet Office in May 2015 to become a trade minister. Two months later, Crothers announced he would resign too and joined Greensill in September 2015 as an adviser before finally leaving his Cabinet Office post in November of that year.

Maude said they had continued to work together. Crothers worked for Francis Maude Associates, a consultancy firm he founded, as recently as three years ago.

“He did some work during 2017 and 2018 as a freelance accountant,” he said.

Asked whether he was surprised that Crothers was allowed to work as a civil servant while taking up a role at Greensill, Maude said: “I do not recall what the rules were at that time and I wasn’t party to any of those decisions. I think it is best to leave it to be explored properly.”

Labour’s Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, said the government could not deflect attention away from the current administrations on to the Cameron era and departed civil servants.

“We’re seeing more lines drawn from the Greensill scandal straight through the door of No 10 Downing Street,” she said.

“The growing cronyism and numerous revolving-door scandals can’t be ignored any longer. This is why we need proper parliamentary inquiry. Instead, the Conservatives voted for another cover-up.”

Crothers was approached for comment.

source: Rajeev Syal