Radical review of government communications looming

A "radical review" of government communications and the role of COI is set for publication this month ahead of a year-long marketing freeze which ends on 31 March.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in midst of review of government communications
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in midst of review of government communications

COI has already lost 40% of its staff in government cuts, including seven from the live events team. The number of events carried out by COI last year nosedived from 50 to eight.

Director of live events Simon Hughes said: "Our whole business model at COI was geared towards us saying yes but our trading status is changing."

Probe

COI’s chief executive Mark Lund has been working closely with the Cabinet’s Office permanent secretary for Government communications Matt Tee on the probe, which has informed recommendations made to Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude.

Maude's report is due to be published this month, according to a Cabinet Office representative, and the terms of reference for the project state the "radical review...will make proposals for the most effective and efficient way to plan, co-ordinate, procure and evaluate government’s direct messaging campaigns".

Pitch process

The review is being finalised as two remaining bidders on a new three-year Department for Education creative services framework await the results of a lengthy pitch process, which was originally tipped for decision at the end of January.

The Creative Choice consortium, led by the Live Group, is competing against Serco and The Engine Group for the deal, which includes conferences and exhibitions and was planned to begin in April.

Panel

There has been some industry concern over the appointment of The Engine Group’s president Robin Wight to the Cabinet Office’s communications and COI review panel, due to conflicting interests.

Wight is one of a ten-strong panel that also included Aviva’s chief marketing and communications officer Amanda Mackenzie.

However, a DfE spokesman said the decision on the framework was awaiting final approval by the Secretary of State and the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group, and the process "isn’t linked" to the review.

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