Leader: Brown’s OFR U-turn creates confusion

Gordon Brown’s announcement this week that he is to axe the nascent OFR (operating and financial review) came as a genuine shock to corporate communicators.

It is only eight months since the OFR came into effect and many organisations were finally getting to grips with this major drive to make them more accountable on social and environmental policy.

Of course it's not difficult to see why Brown took the decision. On the eve of this week's CBI conference, director-general Sir Digby Jones turned up the heat on Brown by announcing that relations between industry and government were at rock bottom. This shot across the bows was particularly effective at a time when both Tory leadership candidates are wooing big business.

How could the PM-in-waiting win back his 'friend of business' image?  The splash story in the Financial Times on Monday was just the ticket: 'Gordon Brown will today scrap onerous new reporting rules... in a renewed drive against red tape,' it read.

Jones naturally welcomed the decision. But others were left bemused. Sure, scrapping the OFR could be seen as cutting red tape, but imposing complicated new rules and then ditching them is hardly helpful.

More importantly, the move seems to fly in the face of public opinion. A MORI poll in The Guardian this week said 94 per cent of people wanted companies to report on their societal and environmental impact, with 91 per cent wanting government to take more action in this area.

Brown is set to become the most left-wing PM for three decades, and if anyone can create an environment for 'responsible capitalism' surely it is he. It is therefore strange to alienate heartland support in a short-term move to win credibility in the Square Mile.

As for comms directors, few saw the OFR as perfect. But simply scrapping it creates a void for them – and further confusion about government commitment to open, ethical business.


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