Whitehall explores radical cost-saving plan to join up press offices

Whitehall press offices could be merged with quango comms teams under radical new money-saving plans being discussed by senior government communicators.

Changes: Slimmed down Whitehall comms?
Changes: Slimmed down Whitehall comms?

PRWeek has learned of provisional proposals to slim down government comms units into eight cross-Whitehall 'super-teams'.

One Whitehall insider said senior civil servants have considered restructuring the comms functions of 24 major entities - including departments and quangos - around approximately eight 'key themes'.

A recent PowerPoint presentation to officials is said to have suggested crime and health as two such themes.

The proposals come at a time when pressure on government comms has never been greater. The forthcoming comprehensive spending review is expected to set harsh limits on departmental spending powers from 2011/12 to 2014/15.

A second Whitehall comms source said: 'There are a number of ideas like this kicking about, driven by pressure to cut costs and work more efficiently. But it is very much an examination of other potential operating models rather than fixed plans. As far as I can tell it is still in the "blue sky" realm.'

Cabinet Office director of comms Jenny Grey admitted that there had been discussions of plans for sharing comms functions, but claimed these were no longer on the agenda.

Cabinet Office head of news Alison Potter-Drake also said she did not recognise the plan, but added: 'We are all looking at resources ... There are lots of ideas.'

Luther Pendragon partner Mike Granatt, former director-general of the Government Information and Communication Service, suggested such proposals would not be practical.

'You could put shared services in place,’ said Granatt. ‘That’s what the COI was set up to do. But the question arises of who will be in charge of resources? I have to say it seems like a lot of bureaucracy. You could end up spending more time arguing over who is in charge than getting the job done.'

 

Comms cuts

September: David Walker leaves top comms role at the Audit Commission after 48 comms staff are told they will be out of a job when it closes in 2012.

August: The Cabinet Office announces a 52 per cent reduction in marketing and advertising spend.

July: Scottish Government PROs and agencies brace themselves as Holyrood faces budget cuts of up to 25% from the Con-Dem coalition in Westminster.

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