14% fewer Comms staff

May 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

The number of public relations and communications staff in most government departments has dropped in the past four years – with some notable exceptions, including the Treasury – according to a Cabinet paper on public service staffing.

Overall, communications positions (full-time equivalents) have fallen by 14.34 per cent from December 2008 to last December, with some exceptions.

The number of Treasury communications positions increased from 2.9 to 4.9. The number of Statistics New Zealand staff increased heavily last year but that was in the build-up to the Census this year.

The Serious Fraud Office took on one position where it had none before, and the Department of Prime Minister and the Cabinet increased from one to two.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has had the biggest reduction in communications positions, from 5.2 to 0.9, a drop of 82.69 per cent.

Down

* Women’s affairs 5.2 to 0.9
* Transport 9.4 to 3.5
* State Services Comm 5.7 to 3
* Environment 9.3 to 5
* Health 11.7 to 6.3
* Land Information 9.9 to 6
* Education 19.4 to 12.6
* Conservation 16.4 to 11

Up

* Treasury 2.9 to 4.9
* Prime Minister and Cabinet 1 to 2
* Culture and Heritage 2.5 to 4

Overall a good trend. Government agencies of course have to have communications staff, but the growth in the 2000s was unsustainable.

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13 Responses to “14% fewer Comms staff”

  1. kowtow (8,160 comments) says:

    You have to wonder how governments worldwide managed in the past without all these masters of spin.

    But then that was in an era when balancing the books was more important than looking good.

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  2. Redbaiter (8,283 comments) says:

    “Prime Minister and Cabinet 1 to 2″

    So who the hell are these people?

    The PM’s office has about 25 highly-professional staff working in it. Under Helen Clark’s rule, Heather Simpson was of course the head of the unit, and thus the second in command of the Labour Government. Simpson’s replacement is Wayne Eagleson, who like Heather Simpson is highly aversive to both media scrutiny and political risk. In his unit of about 25, he has people working for him such as Kevin Taylor (Chief Press Secretary), Phil de Joux (Deputy Chief of Staff, former head of the National Party research unit), Sarah Boyle (Senior Adviser; apparently a “guru of the Official Information Act”), Stephen Woodhouse (Senior Private Secretary), Grant Johnston (Chief Policy Adviser; former Treasury policy wonk and partner of columnist Joanne Black), Jason Ede (Senior Adviser), Nicola Willis (Senior Advisor), Lesley Hamilton (Press Secretary), and Paula Oliver (Press Secretary).

    (Kevin Taylor gone of course, like Thedavincimode has from Kiwiblog)

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  3. RRM (9,770 comments) says:

    A mate of mine had a Govt job for a while doing internal comms at Housing NZ.

    [He emphasised INTERNAL comms - just the staff newsletter and all the memos, e mails and letters that important people are too busy to write themselves. Nothing so drastic as material a Minister, other Govt Departments or members of the public or the press would read!]

    He was on a team of something like 14 internal comms people, and he said it was a complete joke, four of them could have done the work, so by the time morning smoko came around he’d have run out of work for the day… although some of the lesser lights in the office seemed to find it difficult.

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  4. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    Interesting that Treasury have gone up. Is this because Labour under-staffed them or because National are over-staffing them?

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  5. s.russell (1,590 comments) says:

    As RRM points out not all comms roles are equal. Some are spinners, others deal with necessary internal stuff, others sit on their arses all day.

    Unfortunately, this makes it hard to be sure of what is happening. When numbers change it can mean that jobs are simply being reclassified, without actually changing.

    Hopefully the real meaning of this is fewer spinmeisters and fewer thumb-twiddlers.

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  6. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,875 comments) says:

    Why on earth do Land, Education and Conservation need 30 of these drones between them?

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  7. RRM (9,770 comments) says:

    Adolf – because there was a budget for 30 of them last year, so if we don’t use that budget up then THEY will notice and next year our budget / empire will be pruned back accordingly… we can’t have that.

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  8. backster (2,140 comments) says:

    I wonder how many the Auckland Super City has?

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  9. dime (9,799 comments) says:

    “I wonder how many the Auckland Super City has?”

    417

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  10. lazza (380 comments) says:

    The “Word” is that Len’s payroll for his platoon of Auckland Council paid spinmeisters (mistresses) is $10K per day … or over $3 Milliion pa. Anyone know? … leakers? … whistleblowers? … members of the Finance Committee … auditors … anyone?

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  11. Ross12 (1,377 comments) says:

    Lazza , there was a figure published recently that said the Auckland City comms bill was $60 mill/yr

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  12. lazza (380 comments) says:

    Yep maybe $60 M for AC “Comms” total … includes advertising, publicity (you know the feelgood self serving glossy rubbish that passes for “informing our public”).

    $3.8M pa covers just the Mayors office Spinners, their direct payroll cost … or so say the usually (un) reliable informants.

    That’s why an official figure should be extracted from AC.. Fat chance AC as is an impenetrable Pravda when is comes to stuff like getting info we we really! want to know.

    But then Len and “his Pennys” are unashamed high spending, spread it around, screw those with any money.

    Mmmm … does that make them all! actual and/or closet Socialists?

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  13. cubit (356 comments) says:

    Perhaps some of the comms staff are simply there to provide material to the insatiable appetite of the media who seem to trawl through every department looking for a story. Providing information to the media, satisfying an increasing level of OIA requests, providing material for ombudsmen/Equal opportunities/Human rights, answering myriad irrelvant PQ’s and providing material to every imaginable commission is the lot of most PR and policy staffers

    It is interesting that those who regularly complain about the cost of government are the same people who clog up the process with their inalienable right for information. you can’t have it both ways.

    Disclaimer: I am not a government PR/Comms/Policy person.

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