Whitehall's words of wit and wisdom top the worst sellers

With its Big Brother-style eyeball staring out of the cover and comprehensive figures on new poultry products, the annual report of the Patent Office was never quite going to threaten Harry Potter or Delia for pride of place on the nation's bookshelves. But after spending £22,000 on a glossy 115-page brochure, the Patent Office's hardworking publicity managers must have hoped to rack up slightly more sales than their eventual total – 10, at a cost to the taxpayer of £2,200 per copy.

At least they did better than their confreres in the Public Record Office and the Royal Parks Agency. Their annual reports sold a grand total of zero.

The less-than-inspiring sales figures feature in a new set of statistics which show that government departments and agencies spent more than £2m on annual reports last year. Many attracted only a few, determined readers.

Not surprising, maybe, given the contents. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport report includes a 19-page "picture gallery" of cultural highlights, including a spread on Bob the Builder.

The Department of Work and Pensions paid £94,940 to produce 2,450 reports. It gave away 2,010.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, asked why so much public money was being spent on reports with such "totally pointless" information. He said: "I'm all for openness, but these reports are just window-dressing."

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