Public Affairs: Public bodies stick to lobbyists

APPC Register shows quangos are still hiring lobbyists despite Government criticism.

More than 100 publicly funded bodies are still employing public affairs firms despite Communities Secretary Eric Pickles' attempts to crack down on the practice.

Pickles has repeatedly criticised quangos and councils for hiring lobbying firms, but the latest records from the Association of Professional Political Consultants suggest many of these organisations are refusing to take notice of the Communities Secretary.

The latest quarterly APPC register details public affairs agency clients between 1 September and 1 December 2010. It features more than 100 organisations in receipt of public funding.

Those on the latest register include quangos such as British Waterways and The Met Office, both listed as using Cavendish Communications, and the Financial Services Authority, using Connect Communications. In addition to scores of quangos, eight councils and 15 housing associations show up in the latest APPC records, which cover the majority of - though not all - public affairs firms.

Pickles has previously instructed quangos under his department to cancel such contracts. The Communities Secretary also hopes that the revised and tightened Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, due at the end of January, will make it tougher for councils to employ lobbyists.

Meanwhile, sources close to Pickles expressed concern over the activity of housing associations and revealed that the Government was drawing up new measures 'to make housing associations more transparent'.

However, senior industry figures insisted that, in most cases, agencies were not being hired to lobby Government. 'Agencies provide a wide range of expertise and support in-house teams in managing their media relations, public consultations, marketing activities and community relations,' said PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham.

APPC member agencies are required to list public affairs clients on a quarterly basis. The lists are then displayed publicly on the APPC register.

As reported on prweek.com/uk (11 January), TLG is the latest major agency to apply to become a member of the APPC, after Luther Pendragon and Quiller Consultants. Bell Pottinger Public Affairs still declines to join the APPC.

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