Government hired agencies to ’sell’ Budget

The Treasury has revealed that it secretly hired an agency and a public relations company to help the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, ’sell’ last month’s Budget.

The Treasury has revealed that it secretly hired an agency and a

public relations company to help the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, ’sell’

last month’s Budget.



Ogilvy & Mather and Fishburn Hedges were commissioned to carry out

opinion research on two key measures in the Budget. The opposition

claims the move was unprecedented and is planning a protest to Sir

Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary.



O&M was paid pounds 40,000 for polling on the Working Families Tax

Credit scheme announced by Brown, which will increase the financial

incentives for unemployed people on benefit to take jobs. Fishburn

Hedges received a similar amount for a survey on the Government’s

controversial plans for new Individual Savings Accounts, on which Brown

announced a U-turn after an outcry from people who already hold Tessas

and Peps.



It is believed that the polling covered public knowledge of the

Government’s plans and ’road-tested’ its Budget ideas. ’It helped us

retune our message so that people would understand it,’ a Treasury

source said.



But Ian Duncan Smith, the Tory spokesman on social security, accused

ministers of practising ’government by focus group and PR’, and said the

polling should have been financed by the Labour Party. ’This is flagrant

abuse of taxpayers’ money,’ he said.



Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster General, revealed in a written Commons

reply that the two contracts were let on 26 February and all work was

completed by 16 March, the day before the Budget.



Meanwhile, Duncan Smith attacked as ’a fiasco’ the pounds 1.7 million TV

and press campaign by BMP DDB for the Department of Social Security to

inform pensioners about the Government’s cash help toward their winter

heating bills.



The ads said the money would be sent to pensioners automatically but it

has now emerged that thousands of pensioners will have to collect their

cash from post offices



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