Government opens communications unit to replace COI

The Government has confirmed that the COI, which officially closes on Friday, will be replaced by a 70-strong team in the Cabinet Office.

COI... officially closes on Friday
COI... officially closes on Friday

As expected, the Government Communications Centre, led by Jenny Grey, the executive director of government communications, will have a significantly smaller headcount than the COI’s 400.

The new unit has a total team of around 150, but this includes resources such as the Prime Minister’s press office that were not previously part of COI. The 70-strong communications team will oversee services formerly handled by the COI and will include a "policy and capability" team, a "shared services" team to improve co-operation between Whitehall departments, a media planning and buying resource and a media monitoring service.

Agencies will be invited to an open day in late April or early May at which a new agency framework system will be explained and a timeline revealed for a review of the current rosters. Grey said a priority will be appointing a framework to handle "integrated communications".

Grey revealed that the Government does not have a finite target for total annual advertising or marketing spend: "We don’t have a golden number but spend will never reach levels it reached at its peak. But if we can show a campaign has great value then there is a willingness to invest."

Government ad spend peaked in the 2008/2009 financial year when it rose by 40 per cent to reach £253 million. In the year to the end of September 2011, the Government spent just £39 million, according to figures from Nielsen.

Grey said that the new structure, which also involves the creation of seven Government department hubs to work on sharing existing resources, would result in "an opportunity to co-ordinate and plan better."

She is looking to encourage departments to work together more frequently on campaigns, as was the case with the recent cross-government "great" activity

Friday will mark the end of 66 years existence for COI. Last October, the remaining 400 COI staff entered into a consultancy period and those that have not moved to the Cabinet Office either found new roles within government departments or were offered redundancy.