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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Justifying the wages of spin

I do not know why the Welsh Government needs to spend £1.2 million on its press office in addition to the £500,000 it is spending on Special Advisors, some of whom are journalists. However, in spending this money they are very much following a public sector trend.

The Taxpayer's Alliance, who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, believe that the best PR is free and that it is found by giving a good service to the public. They may be right, but in an age where we have a 24 hour rolling news service and continuous freedom of information requests in the hope of tripping up organisations, it is not possible. Groups like the Taxpayer's Alliance are partly responsible for the growth of these units.

The Tories too, putting out a press release attacking the Government for excesses are using a taxpayer-funded press operation to do so. They have recognised that they cannot do their job properly unless they are telling people about their work. In the last financial year the Welsh Conservative Group received about £200,000 of taxpayers' money to fund their central support staff, including their press operation. Other parties received money too.

We are in an increasingly customer-focussed age in which all organisations are concentrating on delivering the best possible service. Unfortunately, that means telling people what they are getting as well as giving it to them. If these 'spin-merchants', as their detractors like to call them, did not exist we would have to invent them simply because the reputation of the organisations concerned would be under threat from the culture we have created around ourselves.

The spin doctors are feeding on and are fed by the highly desirable openness and accountability that can now be found in public life around the UK.
Hi Peter,

Excellent post.

As someone who works in communications, it is often sometimes brushed off as superfluous. In politics more so, often by people with little understanding of what the roles actually entail.

Valleys Mam wrote something today, attempting to make that all comms staff is walk around He-Man’s castle spitting poison into ears and shouting like Malcolm Tucker from ‘The Thick of it’. The fact is that it goes beyond media relations and even public facing communications.

Of course ‘spin’ is part of that, no one is employed to write terrible stuff about the organisation they work for, but that is not the same as making out these roles are filled by liars and smearers can simply be removed from their jobs without any impact on the organisation.

The issue of FOI is very important I feel, I would dearly love to add up how much FOI from AMs have cost the assembly this year. Some AMs, to justify existence it seems, use the ‘FOI request – write a press release – feign outrage’ cycle as their raison d’etre.
I would be more worried by the fact that despite all the money being spent on communication the Assembly doesn't seem to be very good at it. Can't get the staff I suppose
Kirsty Williams made an intelligent contribution in the press on this issue. Wonders will never cease
WAG will need to put a spin on the revelations now coming from www.truewales.org.uk.
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