Around 400 Prospect members at the Central Office of Information are issued with warnings of compulsory redundancy before managers decide on future of service

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Around 400 staff members at the Central Office of Information have been told their jobs are at risk before managers have decided how the service will be run in the future.

Prospect has condemned the issue of formal warning notices confirming that consultations have opened on compulsory redundancy by March 31 – the day the COI is set to close – even though plans for the future of government communications are still in a state of flux.

Negotiator Julie Flanagan said: “Our members were dismayed to receive these letters when many crucial questions about the future of the services they provide have simply not been answered.”

Proposals under study by the Cabinet Office include the creation of clusters of departments/agencies for the delivery of marketing/advertising on a themed basis, with one department acting as the lead; setting up a shared delivery pool within the Cabinet Office; and the possible mutualisation of such a delivery pool, effectively taking its work into the private sector.

Additionally, the Government Procurement Service will take on the procurement of work from private sector agencies.

There is little information on how the proposals would work. Work has yet to begin with departments, agencies and arms-length bodies on whether they have the capability to deliver the work currently being undertaken by the COI. Work continues to be placed with COI, despite the announcement of its closure.

Julie Flanagan said: “We cannot see the logic of issuing at-risk letters at a time when there are so many unknowns, once again plunging staff in the COI into a long period of uncertainty.

“What’s the point of creating a shared delivery pool when an effective organisation already exists, with the expertise and experience needed – ie the COI? Our members there provide a shared service that has worked well for decades and is respected by the industry.

“It’s a crazy waste of talent – and money – to force people to leave, and end up having to buy in the same services from private companies or recruit a new set of people to do this work. It also runs counter to the government’s alleged efficiency agenda.”

COI has run many successful advertising campaigns for government on issues such as drink driving, seatbelts, HIV-AIDS, 5-a-day and bird flu. It has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Plymouth.


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