Fisher hits back at COI critics in annual report

Carol Fisher fired a parting shot at her critics in Whitehall as she stood down this week as the chief executive of COI Communications.

In her final annual report, Fisher said that in her three- and-a-half years at COI she had achieved her objective of making it a recognised world leader in public communications. She praised the agencies on the Government's roster and said her most proud achievement in the past year was COI winning Campaign's Advertiser of the Year award.

The prize created tension between COI and some Whitehall departments, who resented COI getting the limelight for their campaigns. In a thinly veiled reference to the Department of Transport's decision to break away from COI, Fisher thanked "our valued clients for the confidence and trust they placed in COI.

The report quoted praise from the Cabinet Office minister Chris Leslie, who said COI's skills "cannot be matched anywhere else in government or, indeed, in any single organisation in the private sector".

Privately, Fisher was unhappy that the Cabinet Office failed to block the DoT move.

Government spending on advertising fell from a record £192 million in the previous year to £163 million in the financial year that ended in March.

The COI report said: "Although slightly down from the peak seen in 2000-01, income remained higher than in the preceding years."

Departments that boosted their spending through COI last year included Work and Pensions, Education, Health, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence. But Trade and Industry and the Inland Revenue almost halved their spends.

The report claimed that COI's discounts saved taxpayers 38 per cent on media costs against industry benchmarks by winning big discounts - up from 36 per cent the previous year.

COI, which was ordered to break even by recovering its costs from departments, made a profit of £1.5 million. Departments were more satisfied with COI's performance than in previous years, as its "customer satisfaction index rose from 8.34 marks out of ten to 8.48 marks.

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