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Government to scrap COI, axe up to 1,000 communication jobs

Create new centre, then cut staff loose

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UK.gov plans to replace the Central Office of Information with a new executive agency that deals with the government's marketing and advertising activity.

The scrapping of the COI, which began life in 1946 and operates as a Trading Fund, will lead to further job cuts.

More than 1,000 comms staff will be cut loose in an extensive civil servant cull, after the government released a series of recommendations based on a 158-page review of its £1.01bn annual comms spend, of which £540m is handled directly by the COI.

"The report recommends that that COI becomes the Government Communication Centre (GCC) for all direct communication, within the Cabinet Office during 2011/12. From 2012/13 it is recommended that the GCC then aggregates direct communications staff working across the Government Communications Network," the Cabinet Office said today.

Matt Tee, the permanent secretary for government communication who leaves his £160,000-£165,000 per year post this month, carried out the review.

"The priority to reduce the fiscal deficit has led to a tightening of control of communication expenditure. The marketing and advertising freeze approvals procedure has introduced close central scrutiny of how communication is scoped and how return on the investment is measured," wrote Tee in his review.

"Government policy also envisages fewer but more effective communications with a greater role for partners, both civic and commercial. These drivers will inevitably mean that government communication budgets and staff numbers will be smaller."

He recommended that around 1,000 jobs should be axed from the government's current communication workforce of 6,848. He claimed such a move would save £54m per year.

However, the job cull won't take place immediately. Instead the government wants to put the GCC in place first and then reduce the number of staff on its communication books starting next year.

The government should be pushing for "greater use of digital channels in direct communication and that digital considerations should be built into all communication activity from the start," Tee added.

"Government's use of digital also extends beyond communication and marketing activity into areas such as digital policy, frameworks and contracts, customer services and hosting platforms. Digital policy leads will clearly retain responsibility for their specific remits, but would be able to outsource related marketing and communication services, just as the Cabinet Office has outsourced certain digital tasks to COI in the past." ®

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