Cabinet Office creates 'Flex Team' to fill PR gaps in UK government departments and work for foreign regimes

A crack comms unit is being assembled by the Cabinet Office to deploy into government departments at home and abroad as a rapid response team on top-priority campaigns.

Camilla Jones of the Cabinet Office's Flex Team, has worked on secondment at the Foreign Office
Camilla Jones of the Cabinet Office's Flex Team, has worked on secondment at the Foreign Office
Dubbed the 'Flex Team', the new unit is still in its infancy but members will be recruited over the coming months to bring it up to full strength, according to government officials.

Several campaign manager jobs in the team, which is overseen by Michelle Cupples, deputy director for professional development at the Government Communication Service, have recently been advertised.

The job descriptions say the new comms operation has been created to fill "capability gaps in essential roles" and provide expertise where "departments have specific short/medium-term needs".

The in-house cadre of consultants, based at the Cabinet Office, will provide expert professional consultancy support to Whitehall departments for limited periods to deliver specific, high-priority campaigns. 

Having such a team will help keep "top talent" when individuals are "between roles, unexpectedly surplus or looking for wider developmental experience," according to the GCS.

However, there is also a financial incentive, with one of the "core objectives" of the new team to make money from working for foreign governments. As the GCS job ad puts it, the Flex Team will "earn fees on government-to-government business to capitalise on GCS IP for the benefit of the taxpayer".
There is little detail on the actual scope of the team, which is mentioned briefly in a new GCS handbook launched last week, as a new function "that helps deliver the annual Government Communications Plan by filling in essential roles for priority communications campaigns".

However, a blog by Camilla Jones, who is the first and so far only member of the team, revealed that the rapid response unit has already been called into action. Jones, who spent eight years in marketing at HMRC before joining the Flex Team as a senior campaigns manager, wrote that she had been seconded to help with comms projects at the Department of Education and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in recent months.
The new team is the latest example of a trend towards small rapid response teams to deal with comms, such as the rebuttal unit launched by the Department for International Development earlier this year.

Flex Team consultants will be deployed for anywhere from three weeks to six months at a time, although secondments are expected to be for 10-12 weeks on average.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told PRWeek that the team had been set up to "ensure the Government Communication Service can meet the changing needs of departments flexibly and efficiently".


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