Government comms spend set for significant upswing

David Cameron's re-launched Government has pledged to significantly grow its comms spend this year as it prepares for a raft of key PR battles over controversial reforms.

Jenny Grey: Government comms tsar
Jenny Grey: Government comms tsar

In the week the Prime Minister announced a significant Cabinet reshuffle, the Government has for the first time revealed the full extent of its PR spending plans.

The Government budgets to spend £285m on comms during the financial year 2012-13, representing a near-70 per cent rise from £168m spend through the COI in 2010-11, the last recorded figures.

The Cabinet Office argued the figures were not directly comparable as not all previous comms expenditure went through the COI, but it was unable to provide a total for previous government PR spend.

The release comes ahead of a range of contentious policy initiatives, including large-scale welfare and health reforms.

Former COI PR director Oliver Hickson said the increased PR spend reflected the 'major comms challenges' the Government faced, adding: 'There seems to be a tacit acknowledgement within the report about the effectiveness of behaviour change comms when measured properly.'

Key comms priorities listed within the 'proactive communications plan' include preparing claimants for major welfare reforms, further consultation over the High Speed 2 rail link, and promoting efforts to kick-start business with campaigns such as 'Business in You'.

Outgoing government comms tsar Jenny Grey told PRWeek: 'The narrative around government comms has often been around cuts, but this document is about stating the positive role comms has and empowering communicators.'

Grey is set to move on from the Cabinet Office later this month to join US banking giant Citigroup.

GOV'T COMMS HUBS

The £285m will be spent across seven 'hubs', each containing one to four government departments.

The hubs include areas such as 'growth and economy' - containing BIS, Treasury and DCMS; and 'public health' - the DH.

The most populated comms hub will be 'infrastructure, communities, environment and personal safety', containing 732 staff.

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