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Briefing paper
Report cover

Government communications in 2023 and beyond

Communications Government information Public trust Misinformation United Kingdom

Reflecting on the success, or otherwise, of recent government communications campaigns around the response to the pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU, this paper explores how government informing citizens about its activities in a way consistent with civil service values. As the paper warns, examples of factual inaccuracy or overly political framing in the way government communicates have raised questions about whether the right ethical safeguards are in place. A more trustworthy approach to communications would benefit public discourse and make it easier for the government to carefully rebut genuine mis- and disinformation.

The paper concludes that the government should take a more coherent approach to communicating, with a strong, smart, central Government Communication Service (GCS) function co-ordinating cross-government communication and taking responsibility for the content of GOV.UK.

Key recommendations:

  • Government communicators providing more input into parliamentary statements, which are communication opportunities, and participate more from the outset of policy formulation processes.
  • The creation of clearer career paths into the senior civil service for government communicators.
  • Government communicators be more aware of their ethical responsibilities as set out in the GCS propriety guidance – and the GCS guidance be enforced more rigorously.
  • The government give serious thought is given to how much time and resource is spent on the lobby – and whether this should be re-orientated to place greater emphasis on different forms of media.
  • Reforming pay and the way the GCS presents itself as an employer to bring in the right recruits.
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