The NUJ PR and Communications branch has called for an independent investigation into the use of public funds to procure a private company to run a Covid-19 vaccine public relations campaign.
Reports of the £670k deal were revealed in The Sunday Times, with the suggestion Kate Bingham, the chair of prime minister Boris Johnson’s vaccine taskforce, “insisted” on hiring the Newcastle-based firm to oversee media strategy, “despite concerns they would duplicate the work of about 100 communications staff” at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), within which the taskforce sits.
The NUJ is one of several unions who represent government communications staff, many of whom are facing the prospect of potential redundancy due to a shakeup, thought to be initiated by Dominic Cummings.
Mr Cummings Father in Law is a longstanding business associate of the director of the PR firm Admiral which was hired on the £640k contract.
Reacting to the story, branch chair, John Millington said: “It is disgraceful that the government sought to undermine its own PR staff by hiring a commercial company to do their jobs.
“NUJ members will see this as a slap in face particularly when there is an ongoing consultation over possible redundancies within government communications.
“The government should be investing in its own highly trained staff to promote the Covid-19 vaccine, not running roughshod over procurement rules to reward the private sector and wasting taxpayers money.
“Our members will expect an explanation into how this decision was made and an independent investigation is the only way forward.”