Labour's £113m tops ad spend league

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Indy Politics

The government has spent more on advertising than any company in Britain, jumping in one year from seventh to first in the league table of big spenders.

The government has spent more on advertising than any company in Britain, jumping in one year from seventh to first in the league table of big spenders.

The total spend on advertising and promotions for 1999/2000 was just under £200m, according to Whitehall's Central Office of Information. On advertising alone it was £113,493,000.

The figures exceeded the sums paid out by household giant Procter and Gamble, makers of Sunny Delight. The Government advertising spend also outstripped British Telecom and Vauxhall Motors.

The money spent on advertising since Labour took office has almost doubled. It has gone up by 7.6 per cent in the past year - more than the percentage rise for spending on public services. Advertising on digital media alone increased threefold.

The Tories believe the figures show that the Labour government is "all spin and no substance", caring more about image than about delivering on its policy pledges.

Conservative party chairman Michael Ancram said: "Far from getting away from spin, these figures provide clear evidence that New Labour are spending more on spin than ever before. This is an outrageous waste of taxpayers' hard-earned money which could have provided 7,500 nurses, 5,150 teachers or 3,700 police officers. The time has come for Labour to stop spinning and start delivering."

There is a ban on the use of public money to promote party politics. But, while accepting the need for some government advertising campaigns - Christmas anti-drink/drive messages or nurse and teacher recruitment appeals - the Opposition has accused the Government of "wasting" the taxpayers' money on "overtly political advertising".

Similar charges were levelled at the Tories by Labour in opposition, particularly over campaigns for privatisation and training for the jobless. But £9m was spent by the Labour government on promoting the New Deal to get young people into work.

The biggest single campaign to date is the £10m advertising blitz to encourage the poorest pensioners to apply for the Minimum Income Guarantee. A further £2m was spent on attempts to tackle benefit fraud, which is costing taxpayers £4bn. A £12m campaign was used to promote the working families tax credit.

What caused most the condemnation was the money which funded the "Yes" campaigns for devolution in Scotland and Wales and the millions spent on public information about the single currency. Tory John Redwood said yesterday: "It is unusual for governments to be spending on something which is so contentious when it is not yet the agreed policy of the Government."

COI figures showed that the government departments which increased their advertising budgets were the Department of Trade and Industry (up by 26 per cent), the Home Office (up 135 per cent), the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (up 73 per cent), the Department of Health (up 45 per cent) and the Inland Revenue (up 65 per cent). Departments which cut their budgets included the Department for Education and Employment, the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Department of Social Security.

The COI said: "We are apolitical and do not promote party politics but advertising is an important tool to get across government policy."