COI axed but government departments get to keep their marketers

COI: Government axes the office
COI: Government axes the office

The Government has approved the closure of the 65-year-old COI but has rejected a plan to centralise marketing across Whitehall, as laid out by a Cabinet Office report earlier this year.

The reform of the organisation of government communications has been announced today (23 June) by Francis Maude, the minister for the Cabinet Office.

The government first announced firm proposals to scrap the COI in March this year, in an effort to scale back on its communications budget.

Today it disclosed that 20 of the 150 COI staff will be moved into the Cabinet Office while the others will be redeployed elsewhere or made redundant. The process should be completed by April 2012.

However, the centralising of government marketers into theme teams overseen by a government Communications Council will not happen.

This was one of the key recommendations by Matt Tee, the former permanent secretary for Government Communication's Review of paid-for marketing and the role of the COI.

Instead government marketers will remain in their departments and have more freedom to directly hire and manage agencies although central media buying will continue, managed by a newly created procurement unit.

Other changes to government communications include:

  • A new governance structure to "drive collective responsibility". This will include the appointment of an executive director, and the establishment of a Communications Delivery Board.
  • Government to explore how it can capitalise on the "capability which exists in communications across government, through a programme of reviews".
  • Exploring the development of a shared communications delivery pool for certain specialist services and for a small number of specialist marketing hubs.

The reform follows the introduction of spending controls on advertising and marketing spend in June last year, which has led to a 68% reduction in external spend through COI from £532m in 2009/10 to an estimated £168m in 2010/11.

Government departments have reduced their number of in-house communications staff by around a quarter, and their budgets by half.

Maude said: "This government has slashed unnecessary spending on communications. These important and significant changes to government communications structures are designed to reflect this and to save more money by cutting bureaucracy and reducing duplication."

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