Work and pensions adspend trebles

The Department of Work and Pensions has emerged as one of the Government's biggest advertisers after more than trebling its spending in the past year.

Commons written answers reveal that the DWP's budget for public awareness campaigns rose from £16.8 million in the 2002-03 financial year to £58.2 million in the year that ended in March.

David Willetts, the Tories' shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "This is an extraordinary amount of money to be spending on advertising. Ministers are trying to rescue unpopular policies by expensive advertising."

Willetts claimed the highest spends were on the worst-performing schemes - £15 million on the means-tested Pensions Credit, £12 million on the payment of benefits directly into bank accounts and £7 million on the New Deal programme for the jobless.

"With welfare-to-work schemes that work, Post Office payment options that people want and by reversing the spread of means testing for pensioners, we could make big cuts in spending on publicity," he said.

But Andrew Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said: "All advertising is subject to strict evaluation. We want to target those resources to tackle the awful levels of pensioner and child poverty we inherited, as well as the legacy of mass unemployment. That involves targeting resources at those who need it. That means informing people about the help available and some limited advertising."

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