Government reinvestigates COI’s role

The Government is considering another review of the way Whitehall departments buy their advertising.

The Government is considering another review of the way Whitehall

departments buy their advertising.

In a surprise move, Labour ministers may re-open their decision to give

the Central Office of Information a breathing space in its present form

as a semi-independent arm of the Government.

The question of whether the Government needs its own advertising body is

back on the agenda because the Treasury has launched a wide-ranging

review of the way Whitehall buys its goods and services. Peter Kilfoyle,

the Cabinet Office minister responsible for the COI, sits on the review

committee and is keen for the organisation to be included in its


Although government departments are now free to buy their own

advertising, in practice they use the COI because of the big discounts

it can win.

But the new review may consider whether the COI’s role should be handed

to a private sector media buyer.

The news has caused consternation at the COI, which has survived a

series of similar value-for-money investigations in recent years. It

thought it had won a period of stability when the Government approved a

new strategy in March, which runs to 2002.

The rethink is linked to the appointment of a new chief executive to

succeed Tony Douglas, following his decision to quit the COI to be

chairman of FCB Europe.

The Cabinet Office is believed to have excluded from the five-strong

shortlist senior COI and Whitehall officials who applied for the pounds

90,000-a-year post, including the director of advertising, Peter


The advertisement for the job carried a hint of a further


It said the new chief executive would have to define the COI’s future

strategy and show ’ability to introduce and manage change’.

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