Top mandarin is victim of Prescott's super ministry

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The Independent Online
The top civil servant at the Department of Transport is to leave his job after more than a quarter of century of public service.

Sir Patrick Brown, the Permanent Secretary on a salary in excess of pounds 100,000, is understood to be going after ministers decided that the new "super- ministry" run by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister - encompassing transport and environment - only required one top manager.

The new position is likely to be filled by Andrew Turnbull, Permanent Secretary at the Department of the Environment and once tipped to succeed Cabinet Secretary Sir Robin Butler.

There had been much speculation that Sir Patrick, 57, would find life difficult under the new government. Acknowledged as a privatisation wizard, Sir Patrick had a reputation for handling difficult state sales. Despite opposition from inside government and the public, he deregulated the buses, sold off the water industry during his brief stay at the Department of the Environment and then privatised British Rail.

However, with Labour shifting away from the "dogmatic" privatisation policies of the past, many observers considered that his skills would not be best utilised in the new government.

Seen as the ultimate insider, he was in fact one of the few top civil servants who did not go to public school or attend an Oxbridge college. Sir Patrick was also not a career civil servant - spending his earlier life as a successful management consultant. His new master, Mr Prescott, had in the past made it clear that Sir Patrick would have to fit into his regime. There had been earlier speculation that Sir Patrick would be an early casualty of any Whitehall shake-up but relations between the two men was said to be "cordial and extremely professional".

Some industry observers were surprised with the ease that the permanent secretary had been able to glide effortlessly between Conservative and Labour ministers - but others point out that Sir Patrick had previously worked under the Callaghan administration.

Sir Patrick was no stranger to controversy. In the Eighties he chaired a committee representing members of the First Division Association - the top civil servant's trade union - and produced a discussion paper which stated: "There is evidence that the traditional even-handedness of very senior officials is being undermined, with some of them arguing privately as well as publicly that there is no conceivable alternative to certain policies."

In 1995, Sir Patrick's department rejected criticism by the Parliamentary Ombudsman for failing to offer special compensation to householders blighted by numerous options for the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link. Sir Patrick later appeared in front of a parliamentary committee of MPs, who also criticised the department's actions.

Last night, a spokesman for the Department of Transport denied that there would be any immediate change adding that "Sir Patrick and the Deputy Prime Minister get on very well".

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