Communications disease Public sector waste

Wasteful professor

Eleven MillionThe Children’s Commissioner is a fool. Certainly he is foolish with money.

Scanning a few blogs this morning I picked up this story in the Mail on Sunday.

The MoS reports that:

The Children’s Commissioner has been criticised for spending £93,000 of taxpayers’ money on a rebranding exercise. Opponents say the new name – 11 Million – is meaningless and money which should have been spent helping children has been wasted. Sir Al Aynsley-Green, who was appointed two years ago to head the newly created Office of the Children’s Commissioner, hired PR firm The Team to create the new identity.

The article goes on to say that in 2001 The Team was paid £110,000 for designing a glossy brochure outlining the Government’s ten-year strategy on education. They also did the design for the Children’s Commissioners last Annual Report and Accounts which was also a very expensive document that will have cost something similar. The document is a typical example of expensive corporate masturbation paid for with public money. 68 pages of full colour, fancily designed tosh with some 11 full page photos and lots of expensive graphics designed to look like children’s writing but in fact laboriously created by pony-tail wearing graphic designers at The Team. At least there were no pictures on the bespectacled CC himself. You can find at least four pictures of him on their expensive and tricksy new website.

This expensive shower launched their new brand and five-year strategy (another 71 pages of full colour, graphic design, etc) at an evening reception at HM Treasury last Wednesday. See their press release. I hope that they all enjoyed their bubbly and nibbles. I don’t suppose that this will stop the next Victoria Climbie. The launch was overseen by the super-incompetent Beverley Hughes, Minister for Children and Young People, who has already been forced to resign from government once.

To give you some background the Office of the Children’s Commissioner is a Department for Education and Skills Non-Departmental Public Body. Another word is quango. It was set up from the Children Act 2004 to be the independent voice for all children and young people and represent their views, opinions, interests and rights to the people who make decisions that affect them. Professor Sir Albert Aynsley-Green was appointed as the first ever Children’s Commissioner for England in July 2005. Before that he was a paediatrician for 30 years.

Last year’s annual report is quite illuminating:

  • by their own admission 57% of their operating expenditure goes on “communications and participation”
  • last year they spent £1.421 million refurbishing their premises at Number 1 London Bridge. Why do they need riverside premises overlooking the City of London?
  • last year they paid £95,000 per head to employ 12 people
  • their income is made up almost entirely of government grant, some £1.65 million
  • Aynsley-Green does not do all of this exhausting marketing for free obviously. He is not in this for charity. He gives himself a salary of £135K.
  • the structure chart shows that three people are employed solely to run around after the three senior execs, an Executive Office Manager, an Administration Officer and a Diary Manager.

Nice and cosy

Coincidentally The Team are located conveniently 5 minutes walk away on Southwark Street. Clearly Aynsley-Green does not want to be too far away from his expensive marketing minders. Another coincidence is The Team’s address at number 11 Southwark Street so how they must have all laughed at the pitch for this silly re-branding exercise.

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