Umm, yes, well…….

The head of the government’s vaccine taskforce has charged the taxpayer £670,000 for a team of boutique relations consultants.

Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist married to Jesse Norman, a Conservative minister, was appointed to the role by Boris Johnson.

Since June she has used eight full-time consultants from Admiral Associates, a London PR agency, to oversee her media strategy.

According to leaked documents, she has already spent £500,000 on the team, which is contracted until the end of the year. It means each consultant is on the equivalent of £167,000 a year — more than the prime minister’s salary.

Bingham, 55, is said to have “insisted” on hiring them despite concerns they would duplicate the work of about 100 communications staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in which her taskforce sits.

As the PR team for the vaccine program, perhaps. There being nothing of quite such great economic importance out there currently.

As her PR team, well, perhaps not……

13 thoughts on “Umm, yes, well…….”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Another example of the chumocracy at work.

    It means each consultant is on the equivalent of £167,000 a year

    No, that what they cost which isn’t the same as what they get. For starters they’re Associates, which means they are self employed or have their own company. Admiral Associates bears all the risks and costs and so will take around 15% to 20% and as they’re effectively self employed they’ve got all those other costs that employees don’t have and as that’s been done a few times on here I won’t go in to it now.

    Bingham, 55, is said to have “insisted” on hiring them despite concerns they would duplicate the work of about 100 communications staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in which her taskforce sits.

    Apart form WTF, 100! What are they doing? Those people already have roles and unless the department has lost some of its functions those people are still needed. If they aren’t needed and can easily be deployed why were they employed in the first place? I’d go further and say that with the mess the lockdown is making those existing people are probably needed more than they were before the pandemic.

    So a new task force is created and needs people quickly. How quickly can the civil service recruit the right skills? Presumably this is a time limited task force so those people would have to be on temporary contracts as well.

    I’ll bet if I put my mind to it I could show that those Associates cost about the same, if not less, than recruiting civil servants.

  2. Her hubby Jesse was the only MP / civil servant at the Cobr A meeting that asked if a cost benefit analysis had been done before the first lockdown. The answer came back “no” of course…..

  3. If they are duplicating the work or 100 civil servants, get rid of the civil servants, those six people are cheaper.

  4. A moral question about who gets the vaccine(s) first if effective: the advanced East Asian countries plus New Zealand and Australia are going to have the most vulnerable populations as there’s almost no community resistance. So should they be first in the queue, or should they be last as their residents have done bugger all to help develop better treatments and not participated in phase 3 vaccine trials.

    TW, NZ and Aus need to get a good PR team going if they’re going to justify getting any of the early vaccines. Imv of course.

  5. “ about 100 communications staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy”

    This is why the poor have to be taxed?

  6. @Rob

    BEIS is a big department with fingers in a lot of pies. Only a small fraction of them will have been dealing with the vaccine programme. Given how hyperactive civil servants have had to be putting together and publicising the many Covid-related initiatives the government’s launched, I doubt they’ll have been sat around doing nothing – @BIND is likely on the money with why the consultants were hired.

    Whether the particular bunch brought in were the best value for money is a different question, as is the process by which they were selected – one person “insisting” on it is pretty weak with that much money at stake. The per person sums involved don’t look extraordinary for high-level PR work at a large organisation – high-ranking PR people in government service will be on very hefty salaries. But given the vaccine programme has been deliberately kept quite under the radar, the total expenditure surprised me a bit.

  7. Came to say what BiND said.

    “I’ll bet if I put my mind to it I could show that those Associates cost about the same, if not less, than recruiting civil servants.”

    It’s not just the reduced sickness, pensions, time spent on wanky diversity courses and so forth. It’s about people who have initiative and much better organisation processes.

    My story about buying satnavs for nurses is typical. It’s really hard to buy a £200 Satnav (this was over a decade ago) for district nurses. The numbers showed that it would pay for itself very quickly in missed appointments, but getting it on the catalogue was a mammoth task. If that service was privatised and Virgin Healthcare was running it, I’m sure they’d have just driven to Halfords and bought some that day. And that’s then a virtuous circle. Less time wasted on nurses improves performance, which gives more money for other process improvements.

  8. Bongo
    Taiwan was hit hard by SARS and in the end developed some community resistance
    Covid is SARS 2
    So they may have pre existing resistance, explaining the low death rate.

  9. Taiwan shut their borders quite early, so they didn’t have hundreds of infected visitors every day starting their own little outbreaks, which merged into one vast community transmission.

    It is much easier to control community transmission when you are only dealing with the community, and the numbers are tiny.

  10. @philip

    “Taiwan was hit hard by SARS”

    Fewer than a thousand probable cases, only 346 laboratory-confirmed, perhaps a hundred deaths (official figures were 37 directly deaths and 36 SARS-related, but could have missed some of course).

    No way that’s produced substantial immunity in the population.

    Perhaps a more relevant stat – even in that first SARS outbreak, their public health system put 150,000+ people into quarantine! Of whom only 24 turned out to have the disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3320446/

    Pretty clear, as Rob says, that they’ve got very good at stopping nasty viruses getting established in the population. But I think you’re right that SARS “helped” them with Covid – albeit more as a practice run than an immunity-building exercise.

  11. “The vaccine is good. You should take it.”

    That will be £670,000, please.

    Cirrusly, what other PR is there for a vaccine team?

    “Our people are working very, very hard. You should bang pots and pans for us.”

    ‘100 communications staff’

    Goebbels called it propaganda. Government now calls it ‘communication.’

  12. “But given the vaccine programme has been deliberately kept quite under the radar, the total expenditure surprised me a bit.”

    Could under the radar actually mean they are doing their job well, they aren’t in promoting stage yet

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