Cabinet Office data reveals average Civil Service comms salaries for the first time

Communications is in the bottom half of professions in the Civil Service in terms of pay, according to new data released by the Cabinet Office.

Industry professionals have called for more investment in comms in light of the new data (©ThinkstockPhotos)
Industry professionals have called for more investment in comms in light of the new data (©ThinkstockPhotos)

The 2019 Civil Service Statistics present detailed information on Britain’s civil service, to March 2019.

For the first time, the median salaries for different professions within the Civil Service have been published.

The figures reveal that comms ranks 18th out of 29 professions in terms of pay, with an average salary of £35,750.

Modest remuneration

Although significantly higher than the overall Civil Service median of £27,080, this puts comms toward the lower end of the salary scale.

The data echoes the findings of the latest PR and Communications Census, produced by the PRCA in association with PRWeek, published in May.

It revealed that the average salary for comms people working in local government was £39,948, while for those in central government it was £37,734.

Mixed fortunes

Average pay varies widely between different professions and levels of seniority within the Civil Service.

The median salary ranges from £20,230 in the administrative grades to £81,230 for senior civil servants, according to the latest statistics. This does not include the salary of Alex Aiken, executive director of government comms, who is paid at least £135,000 a year, according to a Cabinet Office transparency date published in 2016.

In terms of professions, planning inspectors have the highest median salary, at £56,350.

They are closely followed by those working in legal and economics roles, who are paid an average of £53,580 and £50,000 respectively.

Poorest paid

Those with the lowest median salary are individuals involved in operational delivery, providing frontline government services directly to citizens or businesses – some 174,230 civil servants, who are are paid an average of £24,480.

The second-lowest-paid are those working in counter fraud, on a median salary of £26,120, followed by people in security roles, where the average is £26,160.

Pay differences

Comms pays better than roles in tax and human resources, where the median salaries are £30,320 and £32,070 respectively.

And it pays almost the same as commercial roles, where the average salary is just £70 a year higher.

Nonetheless, many other disciplines – from social research (£37,600) to policy (£39,850) – pay significantly more.

The statistics exclude the Northern Ireland Civil Service, other Crown servants and people working in the wider public sector, such as non-departmental public bodies and the National Health Service.

Profession of post Median annual salary (£)
Operational delivery 24,480
Counter fraud 26,120
Security 26,160
Psychology 29,070
Intelligence analysis 29,430
Tax  30,320
Property 31,000
Knowledge and information management 31,700
Human resources 32,070
Finance 32,740
Operational research 34,250
Communications 35,750
Commercial 35,820
Digital, data and technology 36,300
Science and engineering 36,460
Corporate finance 36,500
Planning 36,730
Project delivery 37,550
Social research 37,600
Statistics 38,310
Medicine 38,380
Internal audit 39,780
Policy 39,850
International trade 47,270
Veterinarian 48,790
Inspector of education and training 49,460
Economics 50,000
Legal 53,580
Planning inspectors 56,350

Source: Annual Civil Service Employment Survey, as at 31 March 2019

In a statement, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Civil Service communications professionals are highly valued, skilled and specialised staff who enable the effective operation of our public service."

Keeping an eye on developments

Responding to the findings, CIPR president Emma Leech told PRWeek: "PR professionals in the Civil Service play a vital role in communicating policies to the public and supporting the delivery of public services. Their efforts have a tangible impact on society and it's important they are remunerated accordingly."

She added: "While communications is shown to be the 18th-highest-paying profession in the Civil Service, there’s more to the data than first meets the eye. The difference in median figures for the 13th- and 18th-highest professions is relatively modest, while only a handful – including 'legal' and 'economics' - award significantly higher salaries than communications."

Leech commented: "We look forward to monitoring the data and identifying any trends relating to the salaries of communications professionals in the civil service in 2020."

Evaluation key in proving worth

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said: "In every PRCA and PRWeek PR Census of the past decade, industry leaders [have identified] the recruitment and retention of talent as their number-one challenge. The reason for that is simple – we simply do not pay people well enough. As these numbers show, this issue of justifying higher salaries is as significant for the public sector as it is for the industry as a whole."

He added that the issue should be put into perspective, with "public-sector communications practitioners paid significantly above Civil Service median pay", and called for more investment in evaluation to demonstrate the worth of the profession.

Local government perspective

Simon Jones, chair of LGcomms, said: "Across the public sector the most successful organisations tend to be those that invest in strategic communications to build stronger connection with citizens and employees. Yet, we need to do more to demonstrate the net return on investment effective communications brings. Only then can we have serious discussions about how much we are worth as profession."

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