Beleaguered A4e turns to Quiller's George Bridges

Under-fire 'welfare to work' company A4e has brought in support from the Conservative Party's former campaign director, amid a storm of controversy over its financial dealings.

Stepped down: Emma Harrison quit her role as chairman of A4e (Rex Features)
Stepped down: Emma Harrison quit her role as chairman of A4e (Rex Features)

A small number of senior employees at Quiller Consultants, led by George Bridges, are working on what sources have described as a ‘crisis comms brief’.

The appointment comes after the firm, formerly led by Emma Harrison, faces further pressure over allegations that an internal audit had uncovered ‘potential fraud’ in 2009.

A senior public affairs figure commented: ‘Bridges has very senior connections, and his crisis management role will be to help A4e get through its present mess.’

Controversy first erupted around A4e in February, following the arrest of four employees after a police investigation into allegations of fraud.

Chris Philipsborn, director of comms at A4e, said: ‘A4e’s policy and strategy team retains Connect, Edelman and APCO as public affairs advisers on a mixture of UK and international issues.

‘The comms team at A4e continues to retain PHA Media and has engaged Quiller on a short-term contract to assist on issues management.’

However, the APPC register also lists the company as having recently worked with public affairs agencies Greenhaus, Maitland Political and Stratagem (NI).

An insider said Bridges’ ‘strategic brain’ would be a great help, but criticised A4e’s handling of PR around the issue.

The source said: ‘The senior ranks all have their own people and you can’t see the wood for the trees.’

Bridges rejoined Quiller in 2010, six months after he quit to help George Osborne run the party’s general election campaign.

 

A4e timeline

 

  • 2 March BBC Newsnight reveals a leaked 2009 internal audit suggesting that A4e knew of widespread potential fraud.
  • 9 March The Department for Work and Pensions launches an investigation into the company.
  • 18 January Four ex-staff are arrested amid allegations they falsely claimed that people had been placed into employment.

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