A rebuttal of "In defence of the APPC"

The APPC Management Committee's proposal to merge with the PRCA has started a debate on how we move forward as an industry. I welcome that.

There are significant gains from an APPC and PRCA merger, argues George McGregor
There are significant gains from an APPC and PRCA merger, argues George McGregor

In the next few weeks there will be discussion about what is the best way forward – but it is important that we deal in facts.

That is a why I was disappointed to read the article from Emily Wallace around the proposed merger.

A few points need clarification.

Firstly, we asked Emily to conduct a deep dive with the membership asking what they wanted to see from the organisation.

I attended the APPC’s strategy day, which considered the findings as well as the sub-committee that was subsequently formed and it was clear to me (along with a majority of the management committee) that a merger with the PRCA was the best way forward.

Secondly, the prospect of an APPC merger with the PRCA has been something that has been considered by the APPC management committee for many months.

At all times the priority has been to create a stronger voice for ethical lobbying.

There have been several votes to progress discussions with the PRCA and on every occasion there was a substantial majority to do so.

Thirdly, the idea that this decision has been railroaded through or that there won’t be proper debate with the membership is just not true.

There will be an extraordinary general meeting in the autumn and members will be able to fully participate in the conversation on our future and take the final decision.

Read Emily's article here: "I was completely stunned by the announcement last week" – In defence of the APPC

Members’ views have and always been central. They are the ultimate decision makers.

For me, there are significant gains from an APPC and PRCA merger:

  • The APPC code of conduct is considered the gold standard. The new organisation would adopt the APPC code in full. By working with the PRCA we would be bringing many more agencies into compliance with our code and independent disciplinary processes.

  • By creating one self-regulatory register, we would reduce the burden on our respective – and often overlapping – members in completing their quarterly returns.

  • No one would pay more in fees post-merger than they do now. For many organisations that are both members of APPC and PRCA there would be an immediate reduction in costs, and agencies that are currently only members of the APPC, their fee would be set at the current APPC level.

  • There would be clarity for the industry, the media and politicians. There would be one strong united body speaking for our industry with a unified Group Management Committee with the Chair of the APPC becoming the new Chair and the public spokesperson for our industry.

  • There are threats on the horizon for our sector, as a potential new Government is once again likely to look at tightening lobbying rules. We need to get organised now to respond to these.

  • A merger would help the APPC professionalise their activities around their core roles of ensuring transparency, upholding the code of conduct and promote the contribution that our industry plays in public life. A merger would enable the APPC to have access to the PRCA 30+ team and £3.7m of resources, as well as retaining the valuable experience and professional support of our Company Secretary.

I am not pretending there is not a debate to be had. There will be many people we have to take with us on this journey.

But the APPC enters into this in a position of strength with a strong reputation, the gold standard in terms of the code of conduct, and a strong management committee.

The prospect of public affairs self-regulatory body powered by the resources of the PRCA is certainly something the membership of the APPC should consider seriously.

George McGregor is vice chair of the APPC

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