Weber Shandwick's Byrne hits back at Times coverage

LONDON - Weber Shandwick UK CEO Colin Byrne has denied media hints at cronyism in his agency's winning of Government contracts.

A front-page report in The Times this week, followed up by the Daily Mail, detailed increased spending on private consultants by New Labour. They cited WS and Byrne, a former Labour chief press officer, as the benefactors of a £3m Department for Education and Skills contract.

Byrne told PRWeek the Times story was "shameful", dismissing it as an attempt to embarrass Labour during its party conference. "This is nothing to do with PR, just making trouble for the Government. PR is a tiny fraction of spending on private contractors; most of it will be on advertising, accountancy and defence," he said.

Byrne claimed the paper -- owned by Rupert Murdoch, the former employer of WS senior vice-chairman and ex-Sun editor David Yelland -- should be "ashamed of itself".

DfES interim head of corporate communications Stuart Dickenson said: "The contract to develop relationships and secure sponsorship went through a rigorous process."

The Times was unavailable for comment.

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