Whitehall press offices face cuts as Matt Tee leads wide-ranging savings review

PR supremo to work with COI to implement savings in departmental press offices.

Review: Matt Tee will work with the COI
Review: Matt Tee will work with the COI

Whitehall's most senior PR professional, Matt Tee, is to lead a wide-ranging review of government communications, PRWeek can reveal.

The move comes after the Prime Minister on Tuesday announced plans for £3bn of new efficiency savings, including £650m from marketing and management consultancy spend.

Tee will work with the Central Office of Information (COI) on the review, which could see the biggest departmental press offices drastically cut down to size.

Details of the review have not been made public, but PRWeek understands the key areas of scrutiny will include the size of press offices; the role of the COI; and external marketing spend, including use of PR agencies. The review will cover all government departments and quangos.

Gordon Brown has already outlined plans to merge or abolish 123 government 'arms length bodies'. The PM also plans to halve Whitehall spending on consultancy, and reduce spending on marketing by a quarter.

A Cabinet Office spokesman confirmed that the COI could increase its monopoly of Government comms activity.

The spokesman said: 'We will rationalise marketing frameworks across Government and aggregate more activity through the COI. This will give us a better understanding of spend to produce savings while supporting improved effectiveness, planning and evaluation of government communication.'

One former government communications chief expressed concern about the prospect of PR budgets being slashed, and called for advertising to take the heat.

Luther Pendragon partner Mike Granatt said: 'It's bad news for the profession. It will give more impetus to the Government to employ less specialised staff. The big money should be taken from the advertising budget.'

WHAT COULD BE HIT?

There are 309 press officers in Government. The most heavily staffed departments are Health (32), Work and Pensions (49) and the Ministry of Justice (35)

The COI spent £41m on PR and news management in 2008/09, more than 50 per cent up on the previous year

Education and Health were mostly responsible for the growth in PR spend (Source: COI).

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