COI closure will fragment Government comms


COI closure will fragment Government comms

The decision to abolish the Central Office of Information has been condemned by the union representing information professionals in government.

Prospect said the decision put 400 staff at risk of redundancy was in complete breach of the Government’s declared policy of promoting shared services across central and local Government. There was also no consultation or warning to staff.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude today announced that COI would be wound down as part of a new governance structure. Staff based at the Hercules House HQ in London look set to bear the brunt of jobs losses or will transfer to other departments.

A number of marketing hubs will be created to provide services to groups of departments. On behalf of information officers, executives, designers, researchers and other COI staff, Prospect General Secretary Paul Noon said:

“Staff are shocked and devastated. This has come completely out of the blue. Across government, ministers are centralising finance, HR and procurement in order to save money and cut duplication. At COI a shared service that has worked well and is respected by the industry in which it operates is about to be chopped into little pieces. It makes no sense at all.”

The decision follows a review in March by the former permanent secretary for government communications, Matt Tee. He recommended replacing COI with a new communications centre and a 15% cut in the government’s total communications staff of 6,848 employees. This would save £50m from COI’s £329m staffing budget.

Most of the job losses will be among marketing staff, whose numbers are already being cut from 3,233 to 1,940 by the Government’s spending review.From 2012, a much-reduced communications delivery board will be based in the Cabinet Office for which jobs are already being advertised, said Noon. Last year COI made 270 staff redundant in a major restructuring exercise, work which now appears to have been “a complete waste of time,” he added.

Far from saving money, Noon warned: “The cuts to COI will leave most government communications in the hands of media agencies who are certain to be more expensive than in-house professionals.”

COI has run many successful advertising campaigns for government on issues such as drink driving, seatbelts, HIV-AIDS, 5-a-day and bird flu. It has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Plymouth.