Priti Patel summoned the Home Office’s top civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, to a meeting on Christmas Eve, a report in Huffpost claimed.
During the meeting, the Home Secretary demanded he move the department’s comms chief, Andy Tighe, out of the Home Office and give him the news before Christmas, but Sir Phillip refused to do so.
It is not yet clear why the Home Secretary wanted Tighe moved from his job.
The clash is thought to be behind a deteriorating relationship between the Home Secretary and Sir Phillip, with reports in the media that she then attempted to sack him, as well as battles with other officials in the department and allegations of bullying, all of which are denied by the Home Office.
The report comes as PRWeek can exclusively reveal that the Home Office intends to shed up to 60 jobs from its 300-strong comms team by the end of this year.
Tighe announced that he was leaving his job earlier this month, to be replaced by Simon Baugh, who was director of comms at the Department for Exiting the European Union until its closure at the end of January.
At the time Tighe, a former BBC journalist, told PRWeek he was retiring from the Civil Service and taking a career break to consider future opportunities.
He was at the Home Office for nine years, initially as head of news, before being appointed as director of comms in 2017.
Tighe’s brief, now Baugh’s, spanned immigration, law and order, policing, security and counter-terrorism.
As the incumbent of one of the most demanding roles in government comms, Tighe regularly featured in PRWeek’s annual Top 10 of the most senior public sector professionals in the UK.
Speaking about his departure earlier this month, he Told PRWeek his stint in Government had been “a really exciting and fulfilling time… working with some of the most talented and creative comms professionals in government.”
Tighe declined to comment on the latest reports.
The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment. However, in an earlier statement to other media outlets, it said: “The home secretary and permanent secretary are deeply concerned about the number of false allegations appearing in the media. They are focused on delivering on the Home Office’s hugely important agenda, which includes creating an immigration system that works for the UK, putting more police on the streets and keeping the public safe from terrorism.”
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