Government bids to burst "Whitehall bubble" with regional shake-up

The Government is reviewing how its PR teams communicate with the regions as it seeks to avoid being trapped in a "Whitehall bubble".

Whitehall: regional review launched in December (Credit: Ian Bottle)
Whitehall: regional review launched in December (Credit: Ian Bottle)

A formal assessment of how departments communicate on issues on a local basis has been prompted by concerns that current efforts may not be up to scratch.

The probe was sparked by findings from the Government’s rolling comms capability review, which has finished scrutinising departments' PR teams and is now set to move on to arm's-length bodies. 

Head of government communication policy and capability Sean Larkins is leading the process and said the regional review was sparked by concerns that messaging was still "overwhelmingly national, or London-focused".

"Some parts, like Defra, do it brilliantly," he said, "but we need to look at what some departments are doing in terms of their locally focused comms, and some of the big comms issues like growth are landing in the regions." 

The review, which includes further scrutiny into departmental PR teams and discussions with local media, launched in December and is expected to conclude next month. 

It is understood to be looking at developing a more consistent message across departments and regions. Having at least one person responsible for regional comms in each department is considered a important factor.

"We know the trust is there and we know the reach is there, we just need to make sure we don’t commit the mistake of living in a Whitehall bubble," Larkins said. 

On the conclusion of the wider capability review across departments, which also sparked a review of digital comms, Larkins said that the overall findings were that departments were often "tactically strong but strategically weak".

"In a nutshell we have some of the best in the business when it comes to a crisis and reacting to events, but where we’re not as strong is in looking at how we get on the front foot and develop our strategic engagement."

With some of the final departmental reviews now published, the spotlight will now be shone on some of the bigger arm’s-length bodies and non-departmental public bodies.

These are likely to include bodies as wide-ranging as the DVLA and Public Health England, with Trade and Investment likely to be the first scrutinised in February or March. 

The comms capability reviews were first launched in 2012 as part of a wider shake-up of government messaging overseen by its top comms figure Alex Aiken. 

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.