It is hard not to see the influence of Special Adviser Dominic Cummings in this decision. He has rarely seen eye-to-eye with career comms professionals inside the civil service, boasting that during his time as a special adviser to Michael Gove at the Department for Education, they “more than halved the press office, and cut 95 percent of the communication budget”.
In fact, Cummings has little time for most comms professionals. In a blog from 2018 he wrote: “Inevitably, the world of ‘communications’/PR/advertising/marketing is full of charlatans flogging snake oil.”
Most government comms officers found out about the new plan from the media and Alex Aiken has been playing a rear-guard action to patch up relations. Sky News has reported that Aiken apologised “for the way you learnt about these proposed changes” in an acrimonious online briefing, Redundancies may be needed given Downing Street wants all government departments to have 30 staff or “preferably fewer” dealing with journalists.”I recognise it has hurt people and I’m sorry about that, and I will work hard to regain your trust,” the executive director for government communications said.
Gary Graham, deputy head of the Prospect union that represents civil servants, told Sky News he had “never seen part of government act in such a chaotic and cack-handed way. The approach is crass and insensitive. Our members have been working tirelessly to support the country and keep the public informed through this pandemic – and this is how they get rewarded?”.
Downing Street to cut back Whitehall communications unit via @financialtimes
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