HMRC makes three senior 'heavyweight' appointments

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced three new "heavyweight" senior external appointments to its comms team, including to the expanded role of head of comms for enforcement and compliance.

Graham Leftwich, formerly head of internal comms and engagement at Fidelity Worldwide Investment, has joined as head of internal comms, leading a 39-strong team. Formerly heading the corporate comms function at The Co-operative Bank and Britannia Building Society, Leftwich replaces Martin Cook who departed in summer 2013.

HMRC director of corporate comms Stephen Hardwick told PRWeek: "It’s taking me a year-and-a-half to find the right person with the right level of seniority and experience to take on internal comms because we’ve got such a big operation and we’re going through transformation."

Matt Hopkinson joins as head of news on 2 March, replacing Anne Shevas. He will oversee HMRC’s 28-strong press office. Hopkinson currently heads the press, regional and social media operations at the NSPCC and ChildLine, and was previously chief press officer at the Department for Education.

The role of head of comms for enforcement and compliance has been given to Mark Mann, currently acting director for comms and engagement at Barts Health NHS Trust and formerly BAA head of media. Annabelle Chalker previously had that job title, although Hardwick said the role had now been upgraded with additional responsibilities.

Mann, who starts his job on 9 March, has also been a media adviser in the Foreign Office and a civil servant in both the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and HM Customs and Excise.

Hardwick, who was handed the top comms role on a permanent basis in 2013 after a period as interim comms chief, said: "In recruiting these three external heavyweights, I have not only strengthened my own top team but have also strengthened the succession pipeline for comms director roles across government.

"All three bring breadth and depth in media, social media and campaigning, marketing, stakeholder relations and internal comms, and the diversity of their public, private and voluntary sector experiences will bring fresh perspectives to HMRC’s comms as we transform both the services we provide to customers and the way we work."

The new starters join as deputy directors. Hardwick told PRWeek: "We’re looking at people who have the potential to also grow into directors. It’s been a harder search and a much bigger exercise than simply looking for a new head of comms, a new head of news."

Regarding future plans for the HMRC comms team, which numbers about 280 people in total, Hardwick said: "We’re increasingly exploring social media to strengthen the traditional comms channels that we use. We are helping our operational colleagues to improve the comms direct to customers; we want to make them clearer and more straight forward for people to understand.

"Our marketing is increasingly focused on driving people to do what they need to do online, whether that’s self assessments or tax credit renewals."

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