Public sector press offices became bloated and lost focus. That’s why Alex Aiken’s government’s PR revolution, which involves slimmer budgets and a concentration on getting the best value for money, is so important. Here’s Chris Mullin, a former Labour minister, explaining what a review of the environment department’s press office found:
It appears it has a staff of 118 rather than the 40 or so that we originally supposed. Which makes it all the more inexplicable that we are unable to find anyone to turn out a decent speech. Many of them apparently concentrate on specialist magazines. Others are churning out pointless releases… The consensus seems to be that we need to concentrate on putting out a few simple, common messages.”
One of the worst aspects of public sector communication departments is the way they hide their resources. I was told by one public sector comms leader that it is starting to be routine to reclassify communications expenditure as anything else, to try to get around Cabinet Office limits on comms expenditure.
By the way, if you haven’t read Chris Mullin’s diaries, they are excellent. A fascinating and insightful guide to how life as a minister works – from someone who never wanted a frontbench role.