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 Issues & Questions

The Group believes that the key issues facing it can be clustered under five headings.

1. Context

What is the impact of the context in which government communications now take place? Large and growing competitive global 24/7 media, voracious for news, comment and controversy. Politics now in an era of "permanent campaigning" and communications an integral part of policy analysis and development and the delivery of outcomes across the public services.

2. Needs of Different Groups of People

How and when do different groups of people want to receive information and what is the role for the media (television, radio, national regional and local newspapers, specialist magazines, internet web sites) who act as filters and interpreters? How transparent are the original sources of information to the final consumer? What might be the best mix for delivering messages to the public? When should government communicate directly with the general public,  when should government pay to communicate (eg advertising campaigns), and when should it put out information through the print and broadcast media?

3. Quality and Credibility

What do the general public as citizens and electors know and believe, and whom do they trust? Spirit of the age is cynical how are government communications perceived on the spectrum from spin to objective, factual information? What is the impact of regulation such as the impartiality requirements placed upon television news? How good is direct access to factual government information for the media and the general public? What is the quality and timeliness of communications and information across government departments and to individual ministers?

4. Politicisation

What are the different roles of the permanent civil service, with their codified duty to conduct themselves with integrity, impartiality and honesty, and special advisers, who are personal appointments by Ministers and who are expressly relieved of the duty to be politically impartial? What can the two groups do and what should they be able to do and where should the lines of management, responsibility and accountability be drawn? What is the ideal relationship at the top between the Head of GICS (who is a permanent civil servant) and the Director of Communications and Strategy at No 10 (who is a special adviser)?

5. Organisation and Professionalism

How best can the communication service be organised within departments and across government as a whole? Currently the professional communicators are dispersed across departments - all of which have their own Communication Directorates - with a small GICS corporate unit at the centre. How can levels of performance be improved and maintained at consistently high levels and how can the communication service sustain a professional career path within government? How should the career development and training offered to members of the GICS be managed and how should the importance of communication be reflected in the career development of other civil servants?.

 

 

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