Government unveils ‘open’ comms office

The Cabinet Office has unveiled its latest plans to reform Westminster’s PR, scrapping the Government Information and Communications Service (GICS) in line with recommendations made in the Phillis Review, commissioned in 2003.

It has been replaced with the Government Communications Network (GCN), designed to encourage openness and attract staff from the private sector and public feedback on policy.

GCN will include a marcoms function designed to make policy more meaningful to the public, announced by permanent secretary for communications Howell James at the start of the year (PRWeek, 7 January).

GCN will boast 2,000 staff, compared with its 1,000-strong predecessor. It will encompass web designers, publications, e-comms and marketing staff, and publicity and strategic planners.

GCN will introduce qualifications for staff development, accredited by the IPR and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), as well as increased communication between departments and more networking opportunities for staff, said a spokeswoman.

‘This is driving towards a common standard for all government comms, whether people are in advertising, stakeholder relations or marketing, whereas GICS was very media relations based,’ she said.

James said he wanted to ensure comms employees have equal status and are ‘equally appreciated’.

Training programmes are being designed by IPR president Anne Gregory and will help educate staff on comms issues outside their specialist role.

The Phillis Review, chaired by Guardian Media Group chief executive Sir Robert Phillis, recommended the creation of James’s comms position, and called for Alastair Campbell’s former job, now filled by David Hill, to wield less power over civil servants.

The role of head of GICS, held by Mike Granatt, was also axed (PRWeek, 5 September 2003).

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