ALB/Sponsor Department working principles

This document – part of the GCS Modern Communications Operating Model 3.0 – sets out the principles which Directors and Heads of Communication should follow to establish collaborative partnerships between ALBs and sponsoring departments. 

Sensible collaboration doesn’t preclude operational independence. It means coming together where there are shared interests without limiting the ability to pursue individual responsibilities.

HeadingPrincipleSuccess measure
Scope of influenceGovernment department Directors of Communication (DoC) agree the relationship, responsibilities and reporting lines of any ALBs within the Group (sponsor department plus related organisations) with the Permanent Secretary and agency Heads of Communication i.e. agreeing which ALBs/agencies are formally part of the Group, or are out of scope. 

Some independent bodies such as regulatory bodies and government companies will be out of scope for a formal relationship with a sponsor department; however, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) may be acceptable so that out-of-scope agencies can benefit from professional development opportunities and professional communication standards. A rule of thumb is how the ALB receives its annual financial settlement. If this is via the central department, it is likely to be within scope of the Group.
Each Group has agreed a statement of scope or there is a written MoU in place.
Reporting lines and responsibilitiesDoCs are the Head of Profession/Group Head of Communications. ALB/agency Heads of Communication have ‘dotted line’ responsibility to the relevant sponsor departmental DoC. 

This might involve setting one or more performance objectives in agreement with relevant CEOs and a role in recruitment of staff at senior levels such as Grade 6 (salary) level and above in Agencies/ALBs. This reflects the dotted line responsibility that DoCs have to the CEO of Government Communications, and the subsequent responsibility DoCs have for ensuring communications adhere to the professional standards expected in GCS.

Objective setting and ongoing contribution to performance review to be visibly evident. Role in recruitment to be visibly evident.
GovernanceDoCs and agency heads of communication establish a Group communications board and a governance structure that sets clear objectives, terms of reference, and responsibilities as necessary, and underpins the new way of working.Board up and running, with visible governance
framework and evidence of meetings and outputs.
Collaboration and communicationCreate functional leads where appropriate, for example, Heads of Discipline.  There are cross-government Heads of Discipline who can provide guidance, support and networking opportunities.  Further information and contact details are included in the Modern Communications Operating Model

The functional leads (in most, but not all cases) would sit in the central department, but report into the Group communications board, chaired by the DoC. Each functional lead would:
– Be the recognised subject matter expert in that function for the Group;
– Be the link between central government (Cabinet Office and GDS) and the Group to drive reform, share messages and represent the function;
– Promote the professional development of those working in that function in the Group;
– Recommend the best deployment of resource across the Group for that function to meet Group business priorities;
– Promote best practice and maintain standards and consistency across the Group; and
– Escalate quality or resource issues relating to that function through the Group communications board.
Functional leads are in place, with evidence of achievement against the bullet points listed left.
Procurement and spendEnsure central department DoCs are accountable for all advertising, marketing and communications expenditure subject to Cabinet Office spending controls. DoCs will be expected to scrutinise and approve ALBs bids above a threshold of £100,000 prior to submission to the Cabinet Office for approval.Audit trail to demonstrate compliance with ERG spending controls.
Strategy and planningDevelop a Group communications plan (required for the annual government communications plan), and a common planning approach and/or communications grid, in order to help identify Group communication and resourcing priorities, areas to share expertise and mutual support etc.A shared communications
approach is adopted and/ or a shared comms plan is in place.