Government under fire over cold weather payment ads

The Government is facing a political row after approving an emergency pounds 1.5 million campaign to publicise its extra payments to help pensioners pay their winter fuel bills.

The Government is facing a political row after approving an

emergency pounds 1.5 million campaign to publicise its extra payments to

help pensioners pay their winter fuel bills.



A four-week national press campaign by BMP DDB breaks next week when the

agency will shoot a television commercial to run the following week.



But the Tories attacked the campaign after it emerged that Gordon Brown,

the Chancellor of the Exchequer, overruled Treasury officials who

questioned whether it might breach Whitehall rules banning party

political ads.



The officials said it would be unusual for the Government to run a

campaign because pensioners do not have to claim the fuel payments of

pounds 50 for someone on income support and pounds 20 for other

pensioner households.



The money will be sent to them automatically.



However, Brown ruled that the blitz should go ahead, saying the public

information campaign would make sure pensioners were aware of the

payments and how and when they would receive them.



Ministers believe the campaign is justified because it will encourage

old people to ’turn up the heat’. The planned television commercial

shows an old woman entering her home, taking off her coat and switching

on her fire, while the press ad shows four five-pound notes.



Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory spokesman on social security, is to question

ministers about the campaign when the Commons returns next week. He

said: ’This is government by PR. There is no policy; it is just a

marketing exercise.’



BMP landed the Department of Social Security campaign without a pitch on

the strength of its previous work for the department and because it had

to be developed at short notice.



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