Public Sector: DCMS defends its £50k speechwriter

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has strongly defended its decision to hire an Olympics speechwriter, after it was attacked by Labour MP Kate Hoey in the House of Commons.

The role will be paid £50,000 a year and was described in a recent advert as 'an exciting opportunity to be part of our dynamic comms team'.

But Hoey, who represents the south London constituency of Vauxhall, attacked the level of spending on the post. She told fellow MPs last week: 'I see that the Government advertised for an Olympics speechwriter at the cost of £50,000 a year. I presume it is some kind of spoof, because I cannot believe we are spending £50,000 a year on that.'

A DCMS spokesman rebuffed the criticism. He said: 'It is common practice for government departments to have speechwriters to help ministers and others draft speeches, articles and briefings. The salary reflects the market rate for these skills.'

Former Whitehall speechwriter and proprietor of Bespoke Speechwriting Services, Simon Lancaster, said the job would be a 'tremendous challenge', similar to that which faced the Government when promoting the Millennium Dome to stakeholders.

'Compared to the half a million it spent on the logo, £50,000 a year is a bargain,' said Lancaster. 'With the kind of people that it needs to win over, speeches are going to be really important.'

The DCMS spokesman said that the role will provide speeches for Olympics minister Tessa Jowell at meetings with the CBI, regional development agencies and other events around the country.

The role was previously carried out by a mixture of Jowell's departmental officials and special advisers.

The Government has come under fire for the number of officials it is employing for the Olympics. The figure has risen above 1,000, prompting claims of overstaffing at taxpayers' expense.

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