Government departments were this weekend told to plan for spending cuts of as much as 40 per cent, as Chancellor George Osborne seeks to narrow a record budget deficit.
The Treasury is reported to have ordered most ministers to draw up scenarios for spending reductions of both 25 and 40 per cent over four years.
PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham, a former adviser to Tory mayoral candidate Steve Norris, said in response: 'Cuts are inevitable, be they 40 per cent or more likely 25 per cent.
'It is painful, but to suggest comms spend be ringfenced when police numbers are being cut is ludicrous and would damage the industry's credibility.' But he suggested that communications still had a vital role to play in 'explaining, reassuring and consulting'.
Osborne is expected to set budgets for each department in a spending review in October, once ministers have made their own proposals.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said the estimated reduction of 50 per cent across all government communications was not expected to change.
In a poll, all members of the PRCA PR 'Leaders' Panel' said the public sector would lose communicators over the next year, while 90 per cent said it would also use agencies less.
HOW I SEE IT - Simon Francis, Board director, Band & Brown
Since there is a freeze on government marketing spend and with only vital activity being allowed through the Cabinet Office's efficiency and reform group, cuts at 20, 30 or 40 per cent are largely academic.
The impact of these cuts on the wider media community may take a while to sink in.
But the PR industry has an opportunity - working with organisations including PRCA and COI - to take an active stance in ensuring the effectiveness of PR in delivering positive behavioural change is well-known in government.
Communications can play a vital role in the success of the coalition's programme. And the case for the use of agencies needs to be made.