Pressure mounts on UK Public Affairs Council

The UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC) has effectively been given one month to sort out its error-strewn register, with its founder members threatening to abandon the fledgling body if the deadline is not met.

UKPAC Launch
UKPAC Launch

Public Affairs Newscan reveal that the patience of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), Chartered Institute of PR (CIPR) and Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) – the three founding members of UKPAC – is close to snapping over UKPAC’s failure to get the much-criticised register working properly.
UKPAC’s register – which combines the quarterly registers of the APPC and PRCA, as well as including CIPR lobbyists – has been dogged with problems since launch (PAN, Mar). PAN reported last month that UKPAC was looking for a new IT firm because it admitted ‘persistent technical difficulties’.
A company named Pixl8 has now been appointed with a brief to ‘take forward growth and development of the UKPAC database and its integration and presentation online’. The firm, UKPAC said, was ‘selected from a number of organisations based on its broad experience of membership bodies and associate website and search capabilities’.
It described Pixl8 – which has recently been working with the APPC on its own register – as ‘market leaders in delivering online registers for membership bodies’, adding: ‘We expect their solution will meet the needs of the industry and address potential questions that could arise in the expected Cabinet Office consultation [on the Government’s planned statutory register].
‘We are working with Pixl8 to establish the best way to collect data and the effective start-date. There are considerable challenges and costs involved in combining three disparate data sets; it is our intention to use the most up-to-date information available.’
Both the APPC and PRCA have explicitly admitted for the first time that withdrawing support for UKPAC is possible should the register’s problems not be quickly resolved (see text-box below for all three bodies’ positions). The three founding organisations have each been paying £20,000 annually to fund UKPAC.
UKPAC, whose chair (a part-time role) is Elizabeth France, told PAN that an UKPAC board meeting was scheduled for 19 October when ‘the proposed solution’ to its IT nightmare would be presented.
Amid the tensions, PAN can also reveal that UKPAC’s first executive secretary Mark Ramsdale is to leave his (also part-time) role.
UKPAC is ‘looking for someone to act as company secretary and to provide administrative support to the board’, with ‘other duties to be shared between directors or bought in as needed’.
PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham said of Ramsdale, who has other non-UKPAC clients: “The one thing that has kept UKPAC on the road has been Mark. Without his above-and-beyond level of commitment, it would have fallen apart. Whatever the future holds for UKPAC, it will be a weaker body for his departure.”

Public Affairs Newsasked the PRCA, APPC and CIPR for their latest view on UKPAC. They told us:
PRCA:“We want UKPAC to succeed. Therefore we have been surprised and disappointed by its failure to get the simple things right over the past year. Our continuing involvement with it is on the agenda at the PRCA’s next board meeting in late November.”
APPC:“Our next management committee meeting is on 7 November. Our expectation is that the register will be live and accurate by then. If it is not, then one option is to stop funding UKPAC and to walk away.”
CIPR:“The CIPR has shared the concerns of the other founding bodies in UKPAC about the technical issues that have dogged the register. UKPAC has recently taken steps to put this right and we are reserving judgment until we have seen the outcome of this process, which has involved tendering for a new website provider with data support. We are very keen to see this resolved as soon as possible.”

*** See 'Editor's Comment'- 'Sort it, UKPAC – then the real debate can start' (page 17 of October edition; orclick on tab near the bottom-right of this website)

10th October 2011 by Ian Hall

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