Only 11 months after COI won a vote of confidence in a review that it faces every five years, Labour ministers are to consider integrating advertising for government campaigns more fully into their overall communications. This will spark new claims that Labour is using the £162 million-a-year Whitehall ad budget for party political purposes.
Douglas Alexander, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for COI, disclosed the plan in a paper he sent to Bob Phillis, the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, who is to head a "radical review" of the government's communications.
Alexander said the inquiry should ask: "How well coordinated are the government's many advertising campaigns and how well integrated are they into the wider communication, policy and delivery effort?"
The review will consider the role of Alan Bishop, COI's new chief executive, and how he should "interrelate" with other figures, including Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications and strategy.
However, officials are worried that Labour ministers will use the review as a lever to ensure a more political approach to advertising.
A Conservative Party source said: "This inquiry must not be used as a Trojan horse for a further extension of the Labour propaganda already being paid for by the taxpayer."
But Alexander insisted the government was committed to preserving the impartiality of the civil service.
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