Wednesday, 9 September 2009

In defence of public sector comms

With public expenditure clearly set to be the defining issue of the next general election, it now seems inevitable that there must be a serious debate about the use of taxpayers’ money to fund comms work. And by that, I mean not just public sector bodies using agencies, but also public sector bodies directly employing comms professionals too.

There are simple –and simplistic- headlines to be won by comms’ bashing, and the Mail does seem to reserve a page a day for just that. But it is surely ironic that the very mouthpieces which call for public service reform, and for organisations to talk better with the public they serve, are so ready to bash the people who would help to deliver that reform and facilitate that dialogue.

Equally, with all the main political parties talking of the need for tax rises and spending cuts, the days of public largesse are obviously over, and each area of public expenditure needs to justify itself.

That’s why we need a serious debate about this. One that doesn’t try to frame the choice as being between nurses and spin doctors; police on the beat and fat cats.

To that end, we’ve challenged the Tax Payers’ Alliance to debate just this issue. Much of their language on it’s plain stupid. And their ‘research’ wouldn’t stand up as a school project, let alone as the basis on which to legislate.

I’m delighted to say they’ve accepted, and the English Speaking Union have kindly agreed to play host. It’s on November 16th, in the evening. We’ll circulate details in due course. But it promises to be an interesting night, and I’m determined to bring a bit of sanity to this debate. Hopefully the TPA’s own comms people will publicise it too –ah, the irony....

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