Professional Assurance

The cross-government No.10/Cabinet Office campaigns team works with government departments and arm's-length bodies (ALBs) to ensure that, where taxpayers’ money is being spent on government communications, it is cost-effective and reflects best practice.

Professional Assurance

The Cabinet Office spending controls help organisations to reduce unnecessary spend and encourage cross-government collaboration. The Cabinet Office operates the controls on behalf of Her Majesty’s Treasury. 

The controls cover a number of different areas of spend, including Advertising, Marketing and Communications (the information includes a definition of  communications activity covered by the control).

The Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office works with government departments to ensure that the spending control is applied to all GCS communication in line with this guidance. 

The process involves 5 stages:

Stage 1 – Making a spending request: Communications Single Budget

Stage 2 – Making a spending request: Professional Assurance form

Stage 3 – Meeting conditions set on spending approval

Stage 4 – Procuring communications services for approved spending

Stage 5 – Monitoring and evaluating your communications activity

To ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible, each department has a designated account manager within the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office. The account manager will support them in securing a decision and meeting any conditions set for approved spending.  

Stage 1 – Making a spending request: Communications Single Budget

Before the beginning of the financial year, departments submit short business cases for major campaigns and programmes of communications with a projected total spend of £100,000 or more during the next financial year.

These will cover:

  • core departmental communication activities, whether funded from budgets held by communications directorates, policy teams or a third party etc
  • activities delivered by agencies, public bodies and other arm’s-length bodies

Directors of Communication review all cases and make recommendations for the Communications Single Budget to the GCS Ministerial Board. The GCS Ministerial Board approves in principle the Communications Single Budget for the next financial year. 

Stage 2 – Making a spending request: Professional Assurance (PASS) form

If the short business case is approved in principle, departments should complete a Professional Assurance (PASS) form before beginning to spend money on the campaign. This will be sent to the Minister for the Constitution for a decision. In general, no spending can take place until this approval has been received. 

All Professional Assurance forms should have written approval from the relevant departmental Minister and Director of Communications before being submitted. This also applies to ALBs, who must seek these internal approvals from their parent department.

Download the Professional Assurance (PASS) form for 2019/2020

The form can be used to submit a business case to spend on design or creation of a new website or app as part of the digital and technology control but approval must be sought from No.10 Digital Communications team and GDS.

You are strongly encouraged to contact your account manager well in advance of   formally submitting your application. They will work collaboratively with you on the form to answer your questions, raise any queries, and advise on any further information that may be required. The Professional Assurance form also includes drafting notes that provide a guide to what you should cover in your application.

Submitting your application

Wherever possible, departments should submit their PASS form to the Minister for the Constitution for approval at least three months in advance of the expected start date for each campaign or programme of communications activity. For cases which may involve TV as part of channel delivery the business case should ideally be submitted five months in advance. They should expect to receive a response from the Minister no later than 21 days from the date of submission. In exceptional circumstances, we can attempt to get a response in a shorter time frame, but this cannot be guaranteed. The 21-day turnaround should be factored into your planning to meet any internal or campaign delivery deadlines. The submission process is as follows:

  1. When you have completed the form and received internal approvals, submit your final application to the communications.controls@cabinetoffice.gov.uk inbox, copying in your Director of Communications and Ministerial Private Office.
  2. You will receive an email notification confirming that your application has been received.
  3. Your application will be reviewed by your account manager and other team members within the Prime MInister’s Office and Cabinet Office, before being submitted to the Minister for the Constitution at the Cabinet Office for approval. 
  4. In the event of any questions, your account manager will be in touch directly.
  5. Following a ministerial decision, a formal confirmation letter will be provided to your Director of Communications.

    Stage 3 – Meeting conditions set on spending approvals

    The Minister for the Constitution may set some conditions upon which your spending approval is contingent. These will be set out in the decision letter sent to your Director of Communications, and you will be asked to acknowledge them and agree how your progress towards meeting them will be reported back. 

    Our acceptance of any Professional Assurance application for spending in a subsequent financial year will be dependent on you meeting any conditions set on previous approvals.

    Stage 4 – Procuring communications services for approved spending 

    All new contracts for the supply of any communications services must be procured only through government frameworks approved by the Cabinet Office. For guidance on procurement through approved frameworks please refer to the Crown Commercial Service website.

    If your campaign involves paid-for media, please ensure that your team uses the client briefing template to communicate your requirements to the media buying agency MG OMD. To access the brief, go to the tab marked ‘Documents’ and download the document titled ‘RM6003 Client briefing template’. 

    In general, you should not run pitches and brief agencies before you have received formal approval from the Cabinet Office. 

    Stage 5 – Monitoring and evaluating your communications activity

    We require every department, agency and public body that receives spending approval to report briefly on progress on a regular basis for the GCS Ministerial Board. Each quarter, departments will be  commissioned with a proforma template, which will usually be expected to be returned at the end of the first week after the reporting quarter – that is, the first week of July, the first week of October, the first week of January, and the first week of April. 

    We also require every department receiving spending approval to report back on the effectiveness of their activity. This evaluation form should be completed and returned as early as evaluation methods allow, in advance of your spend request for the next financial year, and no later than six months after the activity has ended to communications.controls@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

    Your professional assurance contacts

    Account managers  for each department are listed below. All ALBs should use the contact listed for their parent department. If you are not sure who your account manager is, or if you have general enquiries about the scope or process of Professional Assurance, please email communications.controls@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department

    Account manager

    Email

    Cabinet Office

    Ethen Carlin

    ethen.carlin@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

    Fatim Kesvani

    fatim.kesvani@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

    Yasmin Lloyd

    yasmin.lloyd@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Education

    Alisa Janmohamed

    alisa.janmohamed@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    Harriet Evans

    harriet.evans@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Exiting the European Union

    Yasmin Lloyd

    yasmin.lloyd@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department of Health and Social Care

    Ben Gordon

    ben.gordon@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for International Development

    Fatim Kesvani

    fatim.kesvani@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for International Trade

    Harriet Evans

    harriet.evans@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Transport

    Ethen Carlin

    ethen.carlin@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Department for Work and Pensions

    Harriet Evans

    harriet.evans@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    Rory O’Donoghue

    rory.odonoghue@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    HM Treasury

    Ethen Carlin

    ethen.carlin@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    HM Revenue and Customs

    Ethen Carlin

    ethen.carlin@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Home Office

    Alisa Janmohamed

    alisa.janmohamed@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Ministry of Defence

    Ben Gordon

    ben.gordon@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

    Ben Gordon

    ben.gordon@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Ministry of Justice

    Fatim Kesvani

    fatim.kesvani@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    National Savings & Investments

    Ethen Carlin

    ethen.carlin@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    Office of National Statistics

    Ethen Carlin

    ethen.carlin@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

    UK Export Finance

    Harriet Evans

    harriet.evans@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

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