Home Office upgrades media relations teams

The Home Office has boosted PR staff numbers by almost 40 per cent following a review of its communications operations.

The Home Office has boosted PR staff numbers by almost 40 per cent following a review of its communications operations.

The department has reshaped its PR efforts with the creation of a dedicated news desk for handling media enquiries.

Staff numbers have jumped from 15 to almost 25 in the biggest recruitment drive at the department in recent years.

The changes follow a structural audit of the department by PR firm Clear Communications.

The agency's report recommended both an increase in overall staff numbers and a division between the reactive and proactive sides of the press office.

Both sets of recommendations were implemented this week with the launch of the Home Office's revamped press room.

There is now a central newsdesk for dispersing facts and figures and disseminating the government line on breaking stories. It will be headed by senior information officer Kate O'Connor.

The existing four divisional desks have also been tweaked, with the merger of police and criminal justice issues into one. It will be headed by Claire Stocks.

A crime reduction desk has been created under the aegis of Michelle Wallington.

The existing immigration desk, led by Susan Givens, remains unchanged while the constitution desk has been expanded to include community affairs and race relations under the leadership of Jean Ward.

The creation of a central news desk marks the biggest change and has seen the largest influx of new staff -eight in all, over the last two months in preparation for the new structure's launch this week.

'We are subject to increasing demands from journalists around the world,' said chief press officer Terry Norman. 'The new structure should provide a better service for the 24-hour media as well as freeing up the time of information officers on the section desks to concentrate on long-term projects aimed at getting our message across.'

Norman said the Home Office's communications team had been subject to unusually high levels of staff turnover due to internal Whitehall moves and departures for the private sector. It is hoped the new structure will solve this problem.

The new structure is run by Norman, but will be overseen by Home Office communications director Brian Butler. Butler's remit also includes internal communications, public correspondence and web issues.

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