VisitBritain press chief exits after seven months

Budget constraints have forced VisitBritain to delay the replacement of corporate press and PR manager Jonathan Simpson who is to leave the tourist body after less than seven months.

Simpson, who spent six years at the RAC Foundation, latterly as campaigns manager, will leave at the end of January to seek a political communications role in the run-up to the General Election, expected in the spring.

Citing budget constraints, strategy and communications director Sandie Dawe said Simpson will not be replaced until at least the new financial year, although it is understood that the role may be vacant until as late as September 2005.

‘We’re not axing his role. We place great store in PR in this organisation,’ said Dawe, explaining that budgets are stretched and the recruitment lag will ultimately save money.

Simpson’s workload will be shared between two remaining corporate press officers under the management of head of government affairs and corporate PR Bernard Donoghue. Dawe added that VisitBritain will farm out more work to freelances with particular expertise for projects such as speechwriting.

She insisted that PR’s role will increase as it makes use of the higher media profile of its incoming chairman, the former British Airways chief executive Lord Marshall, who joins next month.

Simpson, who arrived at VisitBritain in June after being made redundant by outsourcing firm Serco after six months, said he would look for a permanent political media relations role.

‘VisitBritain, by its nature as a quango, is not going to be involved in the bigger campaigning work that is my background,’ he said.

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