Alistair Darling reveals Budget plans to restrict lobbying and PR by public bodies

Chancellor Alistair Darling has set out Government plans to crack down on lobbying and PR by state-funded quangos.

Budget plans revealed: Alistair Darling
Budget plans revealed: Alistair Darling

As predicted by PRWeek last week, the Budget states that the Government will ban ‘arm's length bodies' from hiring external lobbying consultants.

There are more than 600 such bodies in the UK - including 43 grant-giving organisations, 145 service delivery bodies and 54 regulators. Around £80bn of public money is distributed through these quangos every year.

The Budget 2010 states: ‘In addition to the £8bn of operational efficiency savings, £3bn will be delivered by 2012-13 through streamlining ALBs, cutting consultancy and marketing spend, reducing spend on IT projects, raising energy efficiency, cutting the costs of staff in the public sector and improving customer channels.'
 
It adds: ‘A stronger governance framework for ALBs and departments will cut duplication of functions, set restrictions on creating new bodies, and limit the use of lobbying and public relations consultants by ALBs.'
 
More detail on the plan to cut lobbying and PR is contained in a supplementary Budget document published today by the Treasury.
 
The document, Reforming Arm's Length Bodies, outlines ‘new rules limiting what ALBs can do, with restrictions around marketing and lobbying'.
 
It states: ‘ALBs must not use public funds to employ external public affairs or other consultants to lobby Parliament or Government with the principal aim of altering government policy or to obtain increased funding.'

However, the small print adds: ‘This should not be interpreted to prevent ALBs acting in an advisory capacity or from fulfilling objectives set out in Royal Charter or statute that relate to advocacy or promoting understanding of sectors.'

The Treasury document also states that ‘ALBs must not use PR consultants without the specific approval of their parent department'.

 

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