Official figures reveal size of MoD's comms army

The Ministry of Defence has enough comms people on staff to fill an entire infantry battalion, according to a PRWeek analysis of recently released data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The MoD has enough comms people on staff to fill an entire infantry battalion (©ThinkstockPhotos)
The MoD has enough comms people on staff to fill an entire infantry battalion (©ThinkstockPhotos)
The figures provide a snapshot of civil service professions, by government department, in 2016 and they reveal that the MoD has 510 civil servants assigned to comms positions – far more than any other department.

It accounts for one in seven of the 3,410 comms posts across government departments recorded by the ONS.

According to the ONS, male civil servants working in government departments are paid an average of £31,860, while female civil servants are paid an average of £29,270, which provides an average figure of £30,565 a year for all staff.

Assuming the official headcount figures relate to full-time posts, government departments spend more than £104 million on comms staff wages each year.

In the case of the MoD, the annual wage bill for comms roles comes to more than £15m.

The MoD has a complex network of press officers, nationally and regionally, as well as a ‘Media Operations Group’ – a specialist Army Reserve unit that works closely with fighting troops deployed on operations.

It has eight separate accounts on different social media channels, and also runs an official blog on the latest topical defence issues.

The importance of comms to the defence of the realm is outlined on the British Army’s website, which states: "Engaging with and informing the media is critically important if we are to maintain public support for defence and the reputation of the Armed Forces."

It adds: "Media Operations are critical to the successful outcome of any mission on the modern battlefield."

The MoD is not the only government department with hundreds of civil servants in comms roles.

HM Revenue and Customs comes second to the MoD, with 390, while the Home Office ranks third with 330 staff.

By contrast, the Department for Work and Pensions had 160 people in comms positions, while the Department for Education and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have just 110 each.

Further down the list for numbers of staff in comms roles are the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (80), Department of Health (50) and the Department for International Development (50). The Treasury ranks bottom out of the major government departments, with just 10 comms staff.

The MoJ, DCMS, DoT, and Scottish Office did not provide a breakdown of staff by profession to the ONS for the headcount data.

The MoD, HMRC and Home Office were contacted by PRWeek to comment on the ONS figures but had not responded at the time of publication.

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