Number 10 comms adviser Abbie Sampson moves to press office

A new role has been created in the Downing Street press office as comms director Andy Coulson attempts to keep a closer eye on government departments.

Close eye: Andy Coulson
Close eye: Andy Coulson

Number 10 strategic comms adviser Abbie Sampson moved across to the press team this week, charged with ensuring that departments share their plans with the press office.

Downing Street insiders said Sampson would act as the press office ‘horizon scanner’ – looking at upcoming comms activities across Whitehall and ensuring that departments keep Number 10 in the loop. ‘It is about making departments less accident prone,’ said one source.

The Downing Street press office routinely liaises with government departments on announcements and media plans. But in recent months, comms chiefs have been caught out by the activities of some government departments.

This disconnect has led to negative headlines that Coulson is keen to keep a lid on.

In August, the Prime Minister was embarrassed by a letter from public health minister Anne Milton admitting free milk for children might be scrapped.

A month earlier, Education Secretary Michael Gove was forced to apologise after it emerged that an initial list of 715 Building Schools for the Future projects was riddled with errors.

Some Whitehall figures said the appointment suggested a tendency towards micro-managing of departmental activities.

A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the appointment, but played down its significance, saying it did not represent a major change in the press office workings.

Sampson will move to the press office, based at 12 Downing Street, from her current role as a senior member of the Number 10 strategic comms unit, which focuses on medium- and long-term comms strategy.

Before joining the unit in 2008, she was chief press officer at the Department for Transport.

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