Government confirms end of COI but rejects centralised marketing

The Government has confirmed that it is to axe the Central Office of Information (COI) but has opted against introducing the communications hub that would have coordinated and developed strategy across departments.


The bulk of the COI’s marketing services work will now be handled centrally under the stewardship of the Cabinet Office.

The procurement of marcomms services and providers will dealt with by a “specialist communications procurement unit”.

The closure of the COI had been expected since former Government communication chief Matt Tee recommended it be axed in March.

The public body had seen staff cut by 40% since the coalition took office last May, while spend through the COI fell 68% after a freeze on non-essential spend on marketing was introduced to help cut the deficit.

Remaining COI staff will be redeployed where possible, according to a Cabinet Office spokesman, “but there will be some redundancies”. The number of job cuts is not yet known, he adds.

Tee’s recommendation that the Government sets up a 150-strong Government Communications Centre (GCC), however, appears to have been rejected.

Tee wanted to see the bulk of the Government’s marketing coordinated, planned and developed centrally, with departmental communications staff redeployed to the GCC.

Instead, a “Communication Delivery Board” and a team of about 20 will be setup to coordinate strategy across departments in a bid to avoid duplication. An executive director will be appointed to oversee strategy.

Departments will be then free to develop their own activity and partnerships with private sector partners, with marcomms staff remaining with their departments.

However, the Cabinet Ofice, which is leading the changes, did not rule out further centralisation and vowed to “explore the development of a shared communications delivery pool for certain specialist services and a small number of specialist marketing hubs”.

It also promised to continue to review ways to “capitalise on the capability which exists in communications across government”.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, adds the changes aim to “save more money by cutting bureaucracy and reducing duplication.”

“This does not mean the end of vital and cost effective marketing campaigns – such as those campaigns that save people’s lives. However, it does mean that communications spending in the future will never again get out of hand and instead will be more transparent, better coordinated and less bureaucratic,” he says.

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