Ofcom rejects David Cameron's call to scrap regulatory comms functions

Ofcom has hit back at David Cameron's call for its comms function to be phased out.

David Cameron: slammed by Ofcom
David Cameron: slammed by Ofcom

Cameron on Monday pledged to save taxpayers money by ­axing comms functions such as Ofcom’s, and wants to ­reduce the regulatory body’s remit to ‘narrow technical and enforcement roles’.

But Ofcom head of media and corporate relations Clayton Hirst dismissed the ­notion that the regulator had no need to communicate directly with the public. ‘I think there’s a strong reason for our comms function to continue,’ he said.

Hirst currently oversees an eight-strong comms team. He added: ‘As well as dealing with media business, we go out and actively discuss what we’re doing with City and investment analysts. We also have a duty to inform consumers with guides to things such as switching phone providers and how to get a better deal.’

Under the Douglas-Home rules, the Tories are all­owed to brief permanent secretaries on their proposals for departmental reorganisation, as the deadline for a general election looms. One senior departmental source noted it was entirely conceivable that Matt Tee, permanent secretary for government communication, would be liaising with the Tor­ies over the proposed cuts in advance of the election. Tee was unavailable for comment as PRWeek went to press.

Departmental comms dir­ectors recently met Tee to discuss issues of propriety in the run-up to the election, such as the use of purdah. It is thought Tory cuts were not explicitly discussed in the meeting.

Gordon Brown is bel­ieved to be unhappy about contact between the civil service and the Tories. As one former Whitehall comms director said: ‘In 1996-97 the Tories were quite grown up about it. Predictably, Brown takes a more tribal and aggressive stance, of which civil servants are well aware.’

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