PA firms enjoying surge in public body contracts

A study that aims to provide a snapshot of the UK consultancy lobbying scene has identified a ‘remarkable’ number of public bodies employing PA consultants.

'The Growth of Lobbying Consultancy' by Leeds Business School senior lecturer Karl Milner identified more than 830 separate relations between public bodies and PA agencies (see table), accounting for more than a quarter of all client accounts.

The study is based on the extrapolation of data from APPC registers between 2001 and 2004. It estimates that PA contracts through APPC member consultancies amounts to 70 to 80 per cent of the total market. From this Milner calculates total PA consultancy fee income for 2004 to have been just over £60.5m, which he cautions is made with 'extreme reservation'. He also estimates there to be 450 lobbyists employed by APPC members and somewhere between 600 and 800 PA consultancy practitioners in total.

The study suggests that the spiralling number of public bodies under New Labour has prompted them to engage PA to stand out and gain sufficient funding.

'A direct effect in the growth of government has been the remarkable number of public bodies that are employing lobbyists,' the study concludes.

Milner – a consultant at Finsbury – told PRWeek he identified over 20 occasions where a Whitehall department hired a PA firm. He is now working on 'Why the public sector hires lobbyists', due out in March.

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