New faces for 2017: All change for Government comms directors to implement new comms plan

Around half of the comms directors in major government departments have changed in the year since the government's 2016/17 plan.

Alex Aiken (centre) flanked by comms directors across Government
Alex Aiken (centre) flanked by comms directors across Government
A raft of appointments has seen an influx of new faces among those charged with implementing the 2017/18 comms plan, centred on Brexit.

Ten out of 21 Whitehall departments have new directors of communication, according to an analysis of the government’s recently released comms plan. 

These include Toby Nation at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. He has replaced Emily Tofield, who is now at the Ministry of Justice.  

Meanwhile, James Roscoe, former press secretary to the Queen, has taken over from Poli Stuart-Lacey at the Cabinet Office, while she has replaced Stephen Hardwick at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Other departments to have seen a change in comms director include the Department for Education, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development, Her Majesty’s Treasury, and the Northern Ireland Office.

The movement of senior comms figures reflects wider changes across government. 

Last year saw the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department of Energy and Climate Change scrapped and replaced by a single Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

The decision to leave the EU prompted the creation of the Department for International Trade and the Department for Exiting the European Union, whose comms directors are Toby Orr and Greg Swift respectively.

Just seven departments – Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Ministry of Defence, Home Office, Department for Transport, Department for Work and Pensions, Scotland Office, and Wales Office – have the same director of comms as those listed in last year’s comms plan.

PRWeek takes a look at four of the new faces at the top level of government comms:

Greg Swift, head of communications, Department for Exiting the European Union

An experienced journalist, Swift worked at the Daily Express for nearly 20 years, where his roles had included news editor and assistant editor (news). He moved into comms last April, when he was appointed deputy spokesperson to the Prime Minister. But he stayed in the job for less than 12 months, leaving to take up the senior comms role at DEXEU in February this year. His new job involves overseeing a team of more than 40 people engaged in in comms, ministerial correspondence and FOI work.

Helen Bower-Easton, director of communication, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

She spent several years working in the Number 10 press office before being the first woman to be appointed the Official Spokesperson to the Prime Minister, in June 2015. Bower-Easton, who received a CBE in David Cameron’s resignation honours list, had previously worked in comms roles such as head of communication at the FCO, and the UK Spokesperson at the UK’s Representation to the EU. She took up her new role in April this year.

Toby Orr, director of communications, Department for International Trade

A former senior partner at Portland, where he had been since 2004, Orr was appointed in January this year and started in April. Announcing the appointment earlier this year, International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "Toby brings a wealth of experience in developing and implementing communication strategies in a global environment. As director of communications, he and his team will deliver a key corporate function for the Department for International Trade, communicating the department’s priorities to our target audiences at home and abroad."

Will Garton, press secretary to the Chancellor and head of communications, Her Majesty’s Treasury

Appointed in January this year, Garton was previously deputy director, health and social care, at the Treasury. He has worked in government for more than a decade, mainly in policy roles at the Treasury, and has a master’s degree in history and politics, from the University of Edinburgh. A career civil servant, his current role is his first job in comms. It is the tenth job he has had since entering the civil service in 2006.

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