Government's bid to counter 'culture of spin' panned

LONDON - The government has sparked fresh controversy over its ad campaigns by calling for them to be fully integrated into other communications.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised to implement a review of the Government Information and Communications Service, which says: "Effective communications strategies should take an integrated approach from speeches through advertising and public relations, so that they make a strategic contribution to the policy aims of each government department."

The review group, headed by the Guardian Media Group chief executive, Bob Phillis, proposed that coordination of campaigns, including work by COI Communications, come under a new Permanent Secretary, appointed at the Cabinet Office. The proposal aims to end the "culture of spin".

But the Tories said the plans could further politicise ad campaigns. A spokesman said: "Linking ads with political speeches makes a nonsense of the Government's claims. It will put civil servants under pressure to promote the Labour Party rather than government services."

Ministers countered that heading the new structure with a top civil servant would further safeguard against politicisation.

The Tories also accused the Department of Work and Pensions of "blatant lies" in its £10.7m campaign through Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners to promote the new Pension Credit scheme. David Willetts, the Tory spokesman on pensions, claimed it was "simply untrue" to say every pensioner would get an income of £102.10 a week. The government rejected the criticism.

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