Downing Street keen to rebalance Whitehall comms teams

Downing Street is said to have identified a 'skills imbalance' at the top of a number of Whitehall comms teams.

'Imbalance': Whitehall comms teams are under scrutiny
'Imbalance': Whitehall comms teams are under scrutiny

The coalition inherited many comms directors from the Labour government, some of whom have expertise in developing major advertising and marketing campaigns, alongside experience of consulting on areas such as staff change management programmes.

However, a Whitehall source told PRWeek the Government has identified a more pressing requirement for directors of comms who are 'highly skilled at explaining policy, ensuring Government is engaging with the public, and providing good advice'.

Conversations around this issue are understood to have been held between Downing Street and a number of ministers in various departments in Whitehall.

The source said: 'The current administration did not agree with the vast sums spent on marketing. The public wants to judge Government based on what it's trying to achieve, and whether it achieves it - not on its ability to buy advertising space. The Government only wants to spend money on advertising when it concerns essential public information - like vaccinations.'

The source added the administration did not see a major need for big budget internal comms activities.

'While internal communications for staff is important, the most important people of all are the public. It certainly doesn't want management speak around "internal change programmes".'

PRWeek understands that no director of comms jobs are currently under threat. But according to the source, there is 'unease around the suitability of some staff at director level'.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The key requirement of directors of communications in Government remains what it always was: to communicate Government policy, whether through press and PR, social media or through advertising and marketing programmes.  

‘Advertising and marketing programmes have been subject to a freeze in spending and directors of the communication have risen to the challenge by saving £133m compared to the same period in the previous year while also leading change programmes to reduce the size of their in-house teams.’

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