Major overhaul as COI reviews pounds 35m roster

The Central Office of Information is to overhaul its PR roster,

putting around pounds 35m worth of business up for grabs.



All 26 agencies on the roster have to re-apply in the first major

shake-up of government PR procurement since the list was created in July

1998.



The review is also a chance for other agencies to add their names to the

roster. The deadline for applications is 14 May. An announcement of the

review's findings is expected by the autumn.



However, the review comes as the future of the COI is unclear. Cabinet

Office inspectors, who are carrying out a full-scale five-yearly review

of the COI, are considering a series of options including scrapping the

agency altogether or having departments procure more external PR work

themselves. Their findings are also due in autumn.



COI spokesman Peter O'Connor said: 'This five-yearly review is something

that all government agencies undergo and raises for any agency issues

relating to abolition, privatisation or continued agency

contracting.'



The COI spent pounds 35m on PR and direct marketing work in 1999 to 2000

out of a total communications budget of pounds 200m.



Agencies on the roster include Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton, GCI and

Consolidated Communications.



C&W handled PR for the launch of a DTi-backed scheme called Trade

Partners and also national promotion for the Cabinet Office's

Chartermark award, given for excellence in public service.



Hugh Davies, C&W director of corporate communication said: 'We welcome

this review and will certainly be re-applying.'



The PR roster review team is headed by COI head of sponsorship and PR

Oliver Hickson.



He said: 'Over the last three years the COI has seen a tremendous

increase in the number and diversity of enquiries coming from government

departments - from strategic advice on business issues to consumer or

youth campaigns.



'Reviewing the roster ensures that we are able to continue to offer our

clients the very best in PR consultancy.'



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