Government comms 'woefully below par'

The PRCA is to hit out at 'woefully below par' government communications when it submits evidence for a major review of civil service PR.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham told PRWeek he would be submitting written evidence in his name to The Lords Communications Select Committee. 'There has to be a realisation that government comms has been woefully below par over the past few years,' said Ingham. 'I'm not talking about the people involved. I'm talking about a lack of confidence that communications are non-partisan expressions of fact.'

He added: 'Too often there's a sense that communication is party political in nature. It's important that we get away from the culture of spin that has been allowed to grow.'

The CIPR is also planning a meeting to prepare evidence for the inquiry. CIPR director-general Colin Farrington said he would be referring to the outcome of the 2004 Phillis Review, which aimed to split political and civil service PR.

The Lords committee will start examining evidence after recess on 6 October, and three government directors of comms will also be asked to give oral evidence. A report on government comms is expected by the end of the year.

The Phillis Review put forward recommendations to improve government comms and make Whitehall 'open, impartial, efficient and relevant to the public'.

Ingham's comments follow oral evidence given by national journalists to the committee before recess (PRWeek, 25 July). The Times health editor Nigel Hawkes criticised the DH for 'trailing' stories to journalists who would 'make a favourable view of it'.

Sky News' political editor Adam Boulton added: 'Departmental press officers are much more puny and insignificant than they once were, and special advisers working with ministers from a partisan position fulfil that (role).'

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