PRWeek can reveal that the seven-strong department headed by George Eustice will be drastically scaled back because the party is suffering from financial problems. In addition, staffers across the Conservative Research Dep-artment have also been told to reapply for their jobs.
A senior Tory source said: ‘Some very good people have been affected. External relations will be one of the hardest hit departments.’
However, Tory chiefs are keen to keep the press office intact – meaning neither comms director Andy Coulson nor head of press Henry Macrory will be affected.
Insiders said the safeguarding of the press office highlighted the importance the Conservatives place on PR.
Macrory confirmed job cuts were being considered but declined to say which departments would be affected.
He told PRWeek: ‘As of yesterday, we began a one-month consultation on 16 to 24 potentially redundant roles. Like many organisations in the current economic climate, we need to look very carefully about how we are using our resources and, unfortunately, there is a need to make significant budget cuts.’
Last quarter, the Tories received fewer private donations than Labour for the first time in more than two years.
The external relations department works alongside the press office and is responsible for communicating
with third-party stakeholder groups such trade bodies, pressure groups and NGOs.
Head of external relations Eustice is unlikely to be made redundant but could see his remit change, according to insiders.
Eustice managed media relations for David Cameron’s 2005 leadership campaign.
Tory HQ: key staff
Andy Coulson communications director
Henry Macrory head of press
Steve Hilton strategy director (based in US)
Ed Llewellyn chief of staff to David Cameron
Matthew Hancock chief of staff to George Osborne
Stephen Gilbert director, Target Seats campaign