Tory leader David Cameron has pledged to cut the number of quangos to save money and boost accountability should the Tories be voted into power in the next general election.
Since his announcement last week, it has come to light that bodies such as ConstructionSkills, Learn Direct and the Learning and Skills Council are seeking agency support in the run-up to the election.
ConstructionSkills, the sector skills agency for the construction industry, is seeking an agency to work on stakeholder engagement. It is not known how this will affect its existing agency Fishburn Hedges. The quango said it was evaluating responses to its Pre-Qualification Questionnaire.
Agency sources told PRWeek Learn Direct and the Learning and Skills Council were also on the hunt for PR and marketing support. The Learning and Skills Council confirmed it was seeking agency help, but it would not provide details. Learn Direct could not be reached for comment.
One agency MD told PRWeek: 'There have been a lot of briefs out from quangos recently. My sense is it's all about saying, "Look at us, we do a good job". It's about raising their profile and demonstrating their value for money because of concerns that there will be a cull.'
Quangos - semi-public bodies with devolved power and financial support from the government - employ more than 90,000 people in the UK.
Cameron claimed he would cull the 790 non-elected quangos that spend nearly £43bn a year, and singled out Ofcom.
Camargue associate director Graeme Buck said: 'Quangos are facing heightened levels of scrutiny and it makes sense to take professional advice on how to respond. Reputation management is as important for quangos as for any organisation.'
Kinross + Render founder Sara Render said the increased PR focus was about more than protectionism. She warned: 'If they were seen to be spending public money on activities outside of their remit, it would come back on them terribly.' But despite the anecdotal evidence, COI director of news and PR Neil Martinson insisted he had not seen any increase in quangos hiring agencies through the COI.
HOW I SEE IT
Justin McKeown, Divisional director, Trimedia UK
As we count down to a general election, it is prudent for non-departmental public bodies to consider what might happen if a different party formed the next government. Indeed, when David Cameron has just delivered a speech entitled 'Bonfire of the Quangos', it is no surprise that such public bodies want to communicate their benefits to decision-makers and influencers.
It seems certain there will be changes in the funding and line-up of so-called 'quangos', regardless of who is in power, so it is important that the most efficient and effective ones don't get thrown out with the bath water.