COI future ‘undecided’ after quangos ‘bonfire’

The Central Office of Information (COI) could be scrapped as part of Government plans to cut the number of quangos.

The future of the COI is currently “under consideration”, according to the Cabinet Office’s “Public Bodies Reform” proposals list, released today (14 October).

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office adds that no decision will be taken on the future of the COI, which provides marketing services to Government departments, “until a review of Government advertising is finalised by the end of November”.

The COI is already being pared down following the coalition Government’s freeze on all but “essential” marketing spend.

The Office is to axe 287 staff, about 40% of its workforce, “to reflect the reduced volume of work”. Departmental spending over £25,000 now has to pass strict criteria to be cleared by the Cabinet Office.

In a statement, COI chief executive Mark Lund, says: “COI has always adapted to meet the requirements of government and the changing media landscape. 

“We are involved in ongoing discussions between the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the wider Government Communications Network to agree a model which helps deliver maximum efficiencies and effectiveness for government communications.”

News that the COI’s future is “undecided” comes as the Government prepares to scrap or bring under local government control 192 public bodies as part of the promised “bonfire of quangos” to cut costs.

Another 118 bodies are to be merged, while 171 are to be reformed.

It was confirmed that the postal services regulator, Postcomm, will be merged into Ofcom, while “several Ofcom duties will be removed or modified”.

The Government is also planning to merge the Office of Fair Trading’s competition functions with the Competition Commission. A consultation will launch next year that will also discuss transferring the OFT’s consumer and enforcement functions to another public body.

Tourism bodies Visit Britain and Visit England have been spared.

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