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
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
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
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