Downing Street appoints Emily Tofield to promote Big Society

Downing Street is stepping up its efforts to communicate the thorny issues of public sector cuts and the Big Society with a new comms appointment.

Emily Tofield: new efficiency and reform head of comms
Emily Tofield: new efficiency and reform head of comms

Senior Whitehall PRO Emily Tofield has been promoted to the role of head of comms for efficiency and reform. She takes the newly created civil service post after two years as press secretary to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

The appointment could boost the standing of strategy director Steve Hilton (see below). It also follows the news that Downing Street's head of digital comms Rishi Saha is to join Hill & Knowlton.

Tofield has worked at the Cabinet Office since 2009, before which she was a senior producer at the BBC, working on The Andrew Marr Show and BBC News.

Her new role will cover efficiency and savings across Government, the Big Society, transparency and internal comms in the civil service.

The Government is now looking to appoint a team of people to work for Tofield, including two comms managers and five additional comms staff.

The new role is part of a radical restructure of the Downing Street comms operation that Andy Coulson helped to push through just days before his resignation as comms director. The new structure sees the merger of Number 10 and Cabinet Office comms units, resulting in seven different teams (see below).

Number 10/Cabinet Office director of policy comms Jenny Grey told PRWeek: 'It's part of the overall rationalisation of our comms effort. This role takes on all the comms support for the minister for the Cabinet Office, press and strategic comms and campaigns.'

Grey said of Tofield: 'She's got that track record within the media, which she's translated to Government over the past couple of years.'

As Tofield takes on the new role, Saha is to leave his post after less than a year in Downing Street. He will become regional director for Hill & Knowlton across Australia, the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central Asia and will relocate to Dubai for the new role.

The news comes within weeks of the appointment of Mike Bracken, director of digital development at The Guardian, as the new executive director of digital at the Cabinet Office.

 

An ally for Hilton?

Following rumours that he is poised to quit his role, the Prime Minister's chief strategist Steve Hilton could now benefit from the appointment of a senior comms operative to promote the Big Society concept.

Hilton, the shaven-headed adviser credited with decontaminating the Tory brand, hit the headlines last week amid speculation that he is close to quitting as a result of the Government's retreat on the NHS.

Downing Street sources suggested Hilton would walk out if he did not get his way in battles with Chancellor George Osborne and recently appointed comms advisers Craig Oliver and Andrew Cooper.

One insider told PRWeek: 'He's a volatile creature and if things go really bad then he'll take his bat home - there's always that risk with Steve.'

On the NHS, Hilton is said to have lost out to Osborne, who saw the reforms as a political risk too far.

His next big battle with the Chancellor could be over the Big Society concept, of which Osborne is said to be sceptical. Hilton is understood to be supportive of Tofield's appointment as he believes she could prove a vital ally in his battle to keep the concept high on the Government's agenda.

 

 

WHO'S IN CHARGE?


The civil servants running the seven comms teams

No 10 press office Vickie Sheriff

Deputy Prime Minister and political reform James Sorene

Government reform and efficiency Emily Tofield

National Security Council and Afghanistan Emily Hands

Cross-Government campaigns Michael Warren

Digital communications Rishi Saha (outgoing)

Events and visits Gila Sacks

 

STATS

40% Admin cuts required across the Cabinet Office

25% Savings required across Number 10 operation

33% Combined comms savings enabled by the restructure

7 Number of units in combined No 10/Cabinet Office comms operation.

Source: Downing Street

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