Govt slams criticism of PR spend

The Cabinet Office has hit back at claims in national media last week that spending on press officers has trebled under Labour.

The move follows a report initially published by The Daily Telegraph that the Government employs 3,200 press officers - with 1,815 in Whitehall and 1,444 in quangos and non-departmental government bodies.

This compares with ‘just over 300' when Labour came to power in 1997, according to the Telegraph.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: ‘The IPO Directory shows that the number working in central Whitehall departments whose job it is to speak to the media on a daily basis - which is what most people would understand to be a "government press officer" - is around 400, less than a quarter of the 1,815 reported.'

She added that the majority of the 3,200 comms staff reported by the Telegraph do not have media roles. The Central Office of Information has ramped up its spend on PR and sponsorship over the past five years (PRWeek, 11 August 2006).

It spent almost £24m in 2005/06, compared with £9m in 2001/02.

The Telegraph's political correspondent Graeme Wilson responded: ‘The Daily Telegraph article made clear that the figures referred to press officers and other staff as well. The article explained there were 300 press officers in Whitehall when Labour came to power, but stressed this figure did not include "other PR staff" employed by departments at the time.'

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