The Conservative Party has called in public spending watchdogs to
investigate a 100 per cent increase in the advertising budget of the
Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).
The demand for a probe by the National Audit Office came after the
deputy prime minister, John Prescott, admitted that his department’s
advertising budget had doubled from pounds 6 million to pounds 12
million in the past year.
Archie Norman, the opposition spokesman on the environment, said: ’This
is an absolutely astonishing increase and a completely indefensible
waste of taxpayers’ money.
’It says a lot about John Prescott that, at a time when the roads are
deteriorating, petrol prices are sky-high and our inner cities are run
down, he doubles his department’s budget.’
Norman also attacked a boost to Prescott’s spending on public
The number of press officers employed by the DETR increased from 34 to
41 in the 12 months to January, with the cost rising from pounds 109,000
to pounds 131,000 a year.
Beverley Hughes, the junior environment minister, said that spending had
risen from pounds 6 million in the 1998-99 financial year to pounds 12
million in 1999-2000.
She said the increase was because of the pounds 4.6 million ’Are you
doing your bit?’ for the environment campaign and a one-off pounds 3
million push to encourage people to vote in the first elections to the
Greater London Authority in April.
A further rise in the DETR’s spending could be on the cards this year.
Its spending on road safety campaigns alone will increase from pounds 6
million to pounds 9 million (Campaign, 26 May).