The Central Office of Information ain’t broke. On the contrary, it
makes a tidy profit. So why are Labour ministers trying to mend it yet
Fitter and leaner than it has ever been, the Government’s advertising
and PR operation not only survived a recent rigorous review of all its
activities but has two years left to run of an agreed five-year
What’s more, it has either met or exceeded all the targets set for it
during the past two years. Doubtless COI executives are gnawing their
office carpets at the prospect of another protracted debate on whether
or not the COI’s role as the official media buyer would be better
handled by the private sector.
On the evidence already available, the answer is an emphatic no. From a
time, three years ago, when the COI’s future was clouded in uncertainty,
the organisation now enjoys robust good health. Its staff levels have
been cut by 30 per cent and it has clearly succeeded in the objective
set for it: to provide a first-class service at break-even cost.
Not even during the general election period when all government
advertising and PR activity was put on ice did the COI fail to deliver
pounds 1 million annual profits; an even more impressive achievement
considering no government department is obliged to use its services.
Equally important, the COI seems to achieve consistent quality of
Questionnaires sent to COI clients after each job, asking them to mark
its performance on a points system ranging from one to ten, record an
average mark of 8.25. If that is not enough, the target set for the COI
to reduce unit costs by 2 per cent has been more than doubled.
What the COI needs is a period of stability after so much turbulence and
change. What it doesn’t need is more politicians kicking its tyres.