Public Sector: Top gov't comms job axed

Whitehall Abolition of permanent secretary for comms role causes a stir.

The Government has created waves in Whitehall by scrapping the role of permanent secretary for government comms, seven years after Labour created the position.

Incumbent Matt Tee said last week he will be leaving the Cabinet Office in March, after conducting a review of the COI and cross-departmental marketing co-ordination.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: 'The permanent secretary post will be abolished. However, it is vitally important there is strong leadership for the communications profession and that propriety and the relationship between political and civil service communications is properly overseen.'

He said Tee would make an announcement about his future in due course.

The Cabinet Office will announce a new leadership arrangement before Tee leaves, but it is thought the government's top comms role will be reduced to a director general level of leadership.

Ex-Foreign and Commonwealth Office director of comms Lucian Hudson said: 'Tee's post is one of several being lost as part of an efficiency programme. The government is to be commended for practising what it preaches to achieve better, not just more, for less.

'The comms function still needs a strong voice and this needs to come from a professional civil servant, working with departmental and agency heads of comms. PR professionals cannot be exempt from the drive to cut spending, but nor should they be marginalised.'

HOW I SEE IT

Mark Flanagan, Partner, Portland PR

Matt has done a superb job improving the co-ordination and professionalism of government comms and overhauling cross-government comms on Afghanistan.

The role is a thankless one, given the lack of levers you are able to pull in terms of departmental press machines and the fact you are not part of the inner core at Number 10.

The post was created in different times and we are now going to see a more streamlined Whitehall comms operation with, perhaps, greater central direction. If this means the quality of service provided to some journalists deteriorates then I think Government's view would be - so be it.

Flanagan was head of strategic comms at No 10 from 2008-2010.

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