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Departmental Information Officers

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 14 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) press officers and (b) communications staff were employed by his Department (i) in each year since it was established and (ii) on the latest date for which figures are available; and what the cost of employing these staff was in each such year. (309929)

The salary related cost of press officers (including contractors and agency staff) employed in 2008-09 and 2007-08, excluding support staff, and the number employed at the end of each year are as follows:

2008-092007-08

Press officers

Cost nearest £000

Number at 31 March 2009

Cost nearest £000

Number at 31 March 2008

MOJ HQ

1,976

40

1,560

33

HM Courts Service

136

3

159

3

Tribunals Service

107

1

55

1

National Offender Management Service1

0

0

0

0

Office of the Public Guardian1

0

0

0

0

Total

2,219

44

1,774

37

1 MOJ HQ provides press office services to NOMS and OPG.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) press office operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, dealing with all media relations for the Department, including the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), from the international, national and regional media.

The MOJ is one of the largest Departments in Government. Communications, including the work of the press office, is an important element of this. The rise in the number of press officers is attributable to the need to increase the capability of the press office to deal with the expanded remit of the work undertaken by the MOJ, compared to its predecessor, the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Communications officers include intranet/internet staff, event organisation, marketing and publishing staff and others involved in communications roles. The salary related cost of communications officers employed in 2008-09 and 2007-08 (include contractors and Agency staff, where known) and the number employed at the end of each year are as follows:

2008-092007-08

Communications Officers

Cost nearest £000

Number at 31 March 2009

Cost nearest £000

Number at 31 March 2008

MOJ HQ

2,801

38

2,286

42

HM Courts Service

510

9

439

9

Tribunals Service

360

11

355

11

National Offender Management Service1

847

19

609

18

Office of the Public Guardian

176

4

173

3

Total

4,694

81

3,862

83

1 Figures for NOMS do not include agency staff or contractors.

For both press officers and communications officers, the number of staff employed at the end of each financial year may not be typical of numbers employed in other months of the year so a comparison of average costs based on the table above is misleading. Average staff numbers are not available for the whole period for press and communications staff separately.

The increase in expenditure on communications officers in MOJ HQ reflects the significantly increased size and remit of MOJ compared to its predecessor, the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and a consequent need to increase the capability of staff employed. To meet this challenge, a number of communications-led projects were undertaken which required the employment of specialist contractors by the MOJ HQ communications directorate for a limited period of time which further increased costs in 2008-09 on a one-off basis.

Expenditure on communications officers by the National Offender Management Service is not directly comparable between years. The 2007-08 figure relates only to Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS). HMPS was merged with the National Probation Service and some former headquarters functions from 1 April 2008. The expanded remit and responsibilities of the enlarged agency necessitated the employment of more senior staff within the communications unit.

The number of staff employed as at the current time and the expenditure incurred from 1 April 2009 to 31 December 2009 is:

2009-10

Cost nearest £000

Number at 31 December 2009

Press officers

MOJ HQ1

1,717

38

HM Courts Service

118

2

Tribunals Service

43

1

National Offender Management Service

0

0

Office of the Public Guardian1

0

0

Total

1,978

41

Communications Officers

MOJ HQ2

1,927

51

HM Courts Service

321

8

Tribunals Service

232

8

National Offender Management Service3

756

17

Office of the Public Guardian

136

4

Total

3,372

88

1 MOJ HQ provides press office services for NOMS and OPG.

2 Nine staff, based previously in the Information and Communications Technology directorate have transferred to the MOJ HQ communications team in 2009. This team now provides a shared service in design and publication to the wider MOJ, including many of its agencies and NDPBs. This shared service is significantly reducing the use of external suppliers. In addition MOJ HQ has taken on the Directgov and business link franchises.

2 Figures for NOMS do not include agency or contract staff.