Hancock faces questions over Luther Pendragon shareholder hired to advisory role

Gina Coladangelo, a shareholder in Luther Pendragon and marketing and comms director at Oliver Bonas, has benefited from her personal ties to health secretary Matt Hancock, according to newspaper reports at the weekend

Matt Hancock, health secretary, and Gina Coladangelo, Luther Pendragon shareholder
Matt Hancock, health secretary, and Gina Coladangelo, Luther Pendragon shareholder

Coladangelo, who has been friends with Hancock since they met at Oxford University, was appointed to the board of the Department of Health and Social Care in September in a part-time role as as non-executive director, for which she is paid £15,000 a year.

Earlier this year she was also appointed an adviser to Hancock to help with the Government’s response to COVID-19, which the health secretary failed to declare.

Details of Hancock’s hiring decision came to light in a report by The Sunday Times yesterday. 

Coladangelo was appointed as an unpaid adviser at the DHSC in March this year, on a six-month contract.

The Sunday Times quoted one source as saying: “Before Matt does anything big, he'll speak to Gina. She knows everything." 

Coladangelo has held a parliamentary pass since April and a source claimed: “She has access to lots of confidential information."

In September, Hancock appointed Coladangelo as a non-executive director at DHSC. 

She remains a shareholder in Luther Pendragon. Some of the agency's clients have won major government contracts in recent months. One client, British Airways, was paid £46m to fly PPE to the UK from China, while another, Accenture, was awarded £2.5m to help build the NHS COVID-19 app.

This is the latest in a series of damaging scandals involving friends and former colleagues of cabinet ministers being handed lucrative contracts or positions, with criticism of contracts given to public affairs and political comms agencies Hanbury Strategy, Public First and Topham Guerin

And earlier this month the PRCA’s Public Affairs Board confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the conduct of Portland’s chairman, George Pascoe-Watson, and Portland consultant and Conservative peer Lord O'Shaughnessy, in response to allegations that they have breached the PRCA’s Professional Charter and the PAB’s Code of Conduct in relation to work they have done for DHSC.

Responding to the news that Coladangelo has benefited from her close ties to Hancock, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “As part of an unprecedented response to this global pandemic we rightly have drawn on the expertise of a number of private sector partners who provided advice and expertise to assist in the Government’s vital work.”

They added: “By public and private sector organisations working together at pace, we were able to strengthen our response to the pandemic as quickly as possible, and we are now better prepared for the coming months as a result."

Before she joined Oliver Bonas – which was founded by her husband – six years ago, Coladangelo spent more than a decade at Luther Pendragon, where she rose to become a partner and helped lead a management buyout in 2005. Prior to that she worked as a senior account manager at Munro & Forster.

A spokesperson for Luther Pendragon stressed that Coladangelo had not been employed by the firm since 2014. “She has no involvement in the day-to-day running of Luther Pendragon, nor does she carry out any client work on behalf of Luther Pendragon,” they said.

The spokesperson added: "She receives no remuneration from Luther Pendragon, and has not done so since she ceased being an employee.”

However, they confirmed that she remains a shareholder in the business, and added: “The Companies House entries have been updated and corrected to confirm that she resigned as a Director in 2017.”

The spokesperson said: “We had no knowledge she had a parliamentary pass. Luther Pendragon employees do not hold parliamentary passes, and we adhere to the PRCA code.”

Oliver Bonas did not respond to a request for comment.

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