Defra’s Muirhead lands top comms role at LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) has poached former Ministry of Defence director of information Oona Muirhead for its top comms post as it prepares to lobby the winner of the next general election.

Muirhead, who is director of modernising rural delivery at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), will take up the post of director of strategy in April. She replaces Phil Swann who left in August for social research body the Tavistock Institute (PRWeek, 18 June 2004).

The lobbying body for local government has been looking for a new director of strategy, formally entitled director of strategy and comms, since Swann announced his departure in June. The job description remains the same, but the word ‘communications’ was dropped from the title to encourage public policy specialists to apply, according to an LGA spokesman.

Muirhead’s challenge will be to promote the issues in the LGA’s manifesto to the next administration.

‘She will be picking up the huge issues for local government with the next administration,’ said acting director of strategy, John Ransford.

These include devolution, holding quangos and other unelected bodies to account, and streamlining inspections so they are targeted where they are needed rather than being held across the board.

Her job will be to communicate these messages to help improve the quality of life for local people.

Muirhead will lead a 30-strong comms team and will report to chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe. The LGA has also named her as one of the consultees on a recent comms review carried out by Tribal MPC, despite the fact she hasn’t yet officially joined.

MPC reviewed the size and responsibilities of the team before Christmas.

The LGA represents more than 300 councils in England and Wales and the political parties.

Ransford will return to his role as director of education and social policy when Muirhead arrives.

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