Biggest public sector comms hires – and the shock departures of 2020

PRWeek reviews the most significant hires and departures of 2020 in the world of public sector comms.

Biggest public sector comms hires – and the shock departures of 2020

New arrivals

Here are some of the appointments that caught PRWeek’s eye during 2020:

Paul Latham, director of comms, Charity Commission

Latham was picked to take up the challenge of bringing to life the Charity Commission’s five-year strategy – not to mention the small matter of protecting its reputation. It’s the third regulatory body where he has presided over comms during the past decade, after stints at the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition and Markets Authority. 

Ranjeet Kaile, director of communications, stakeholder engagement and public affairs, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

He made history by becoming the first board-level director of comms at Britain’s biggest mental health trust. Kaile, who has a track record of success at high-profile public sector organisations such as Lambeth Borough Council and South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, starts his new role next March. 

Judith Porter, director of communications, Department for International Development 

Porter had made a name for herself with a series of senior roles in departments including the Cabinet Office, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Ministry of Justice. She got the top comms job at the DfID when Tim Singleton returned to broadcast news after a three-year stint at the helm. The DfID was merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the autumn, and Porter remains a director of comms in the Government Communications Service.

James Slack, director of communications, Downing Street

He managed to avoid becoming collateral damage during an implosion of Boris Joihnson's inner circle at Downing Street that resulted in the departure of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain last month. The former Daily Mail reporter has been elevated from the Prime Minister’s official spokesman to Cain’s old job as director of comms. His new role comes at a time when the Government is under intense scrutiny on two fronts – COVID-19 and the completion of Britain's departure from the EU. 

Moving on 

Here are some major departures during the past year – some of which were unexpected, to say the least.

Andy Tighe, director of communications, Home Office

The government comms veteran (pictured above left, with his replacement, Simon Baugh, right) told PRWeek in February he was leaving the Civil Service and taking a career break to consider future opportunities. Just weeks later, media reports emerged claiming that Home Secretary Priti Patel had demanded that Tighe be sacked on Christmas Eve. Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam was said to have refused. Rutnam later resigned and issued a claim against the Home Office for constructive dismissal.

Amanda Coleman, director of comms, Greater Manchester Police

She was part of the furniture at GMP, where she had spent almost 20 years making a name for herself as a police comms specialist. But in what Coleman has likened to a “bad divorce”, her time at the force ended amid controversy. She was placed on ‘restricted duties’ in 2019, and investigated by the force’s professional standards branch. Coleman subsequently resigned to set up her own agency.

Kirsty Buchanan, director of comms, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 

The ex-Sunday Express political reporter-turned-government PR was appointed director of comms at MHCLG in April 2019.

But just months later she was suspended after an investigation into allegations of bullying. And less than a year after ascending to the top comms job at MHCLG, she left.

Carl Newns, director of comms, Ministry of Defence

Government comms stalwart Newns spent five years leading the MoD’s comms operation – with an army of hundreds of staff and an annual budget running into the tens of millions.

He left to join the Cabinet Office as a director in the cross-government National Resilience Communications Hub.

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