Government Set To Scrap COI On Its 65th Birthday

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The government looks set to take a radical decision with regard to its communications budget, currently worth £1bn a year. If it follows up on recommendations in a new report from the Cabinet Office, it will scrap the Central Office of Information, replacing it with a new body that will oversee all marketing and advertising.

The new body, called the Government Communications Centre (GCC), will be responsible for making sure that government activity is "concentrated in fewer areas of focus, so that communications is more effective and so the government is not aiming multiple messages at the same audience".

Of the government's £1bn spend in marcoms, £540m goes through the COI. This is sure to reduce as a result but it is not clear by how much. One area where the government was explicit however is staffing, with plans to cut 1000 jobs (which equates to a saving of £50m per year in wage).

The COI was formed in 1946 but the current ConLib regime believes it has become too distant from government communication. It also believes that there is £50m worth of media space a year in government-owned assets, such as websites and building facia, which could be better utilised.

The change has brought a broadly positive response; Commenting on the Cabinet Office report, Advertising Association chief executive Tim Lefroy said: "It's a thumbs-up for paid communications at the heart of policy delivery. It reaffirms the role of the COI although the name might go. It recognises the major contribution advertisers, the media and agencies already make to society and paves the way for a constructive conversation about what more we might do."