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Government Communications Service

4 September 2020 Update from the Cabinet Office

The FDA has been working hard centrally and within employers to engage on the plans to centralise government communications.

We have regular fortnightly meetings with Gem Walsh, the Programme Director, and the programme team in the Cabinet Office. We understand that currently the Cabinet Office has been focusing on recruiting staff for the programme and putting in place governance. The Cabinet Office has conducted a departmental audit to understand more about the scale of government communications across different departments.  It is organising discovery sessions in each employer to discuss the results of the audit, find out how communications are used in each department, discover best practice in each department, and opportunities and implications for the centralisation plans.

We have asked questions about the overall scope of the project – the Cabinet Office is still unclear about this. We have raised concerns about the announcement of a maximum of thirty communications staff in each department and our concerns about reductions in the overall numbers of communications professionals in government. We have also raised concerns about the continuing recruitment in departments in this context.

16 July 2020 Update

On Wednesday 15 July the FDA, along with Prospect and PCS, met with Alex Aiken and Cabinet Office officials to discuss the plans to overhaul government communications, with all departmental teams moving under a new single employer model, and to represent staff views. We are also working in every department to discuss the plans and protect members.

While the full details of the plans are still unclear, we have made plain from the outset that the trade unions must be fully involved in the process so that staff views can be heard and we can support and protect our members. 

We have asked questions about the scope of the proposals; the timescales; and the proposals around limiting teams to thirty members of staff. We have been told that the Cabinet Office are conducting an audit of comms roles, starting next week, to get a full picture of the service.

Alex Aiken did apologise for the way that the news was announced and acknowledged that this has been an undesirable start. He agreed with our points that this has created a lot of concern and anxiousness amongst staff as there are now more questions than answers.

We have also raised our concerns publicly that, while there will be differing opinions about the substance of the idea, there are clear concerns that this is about centralising power and control. The FDA’s General Secretary, Dave Penman, wrote an article in Civil Service World about the plans which you can read here.

I want to keep you updated regularly on the work and give you opportunities to raise your questions with me so that I can reflect your concerns directly with the Cabinet Office. The easiest way to do this is to make sure that your FDA membership record notes that you work in a communications role – you can quickly update your record here.

Additionally, if you know colleagues who have not yet joined the FDA, please share this booklet with them, which tells them more about the FDA.

I understand this is a concerning time for all government communications staff, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local branch, National Officer or centrally via amy@fda.org.uk.

Amy Leversidge
Assistant General Secretary

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