Westminster cuts comms spend in productivity drive

Westminster City Council is to slash its communications budget and centralise all PR activity, as part of a restructure called for in a best value review.

This found that as much as £400,000 will be shaved off its £3m communications budget. The review also concluded that the most efficient way to spend the money was under the control of the central comms function. Currently, just a third of all communications spend is handled by this 17-strong team.

A report following the review said: ‘It [the council] requires a stronger corporate communications function with a rigorous monitoring and policing role across the rest of the organisation.’

Head of communications Alex Aiken added that part of the savings can also be made by avoiding duplication of some comms activity, particularly publications.

Although no comms staff are set to lose their jobs, one of four social services communications roles is to be axed. The remaining three posts will be brought into the strengthened central comms function. The axed post is currently vacant.

Communications spend in other departments will then be brought under the control of the central team in stages.

Aiken said: ‘We can’t just go in and say “give us the cash”; that creates warfare, we’ve got to do it properly.’

Elsewhere, another unitary authority, Essex County Council, has also confirmed that it is to cut PR spend, with a spokesman adding that job losses in the central PR team are now certain.

Cabinet members have agreed that communications will be one of a number of services to be cut, with a low central government grant being blamed for the move. The size of the scaled-down central PR team and the reduction in the budget for communications will be revealed next month.

Staff costs account for around two thirds of the council’s £1.8m communications budget.

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