Treasury earmarks £500,000 of public cash for focus groups and polls

Labour said it is ‘staggering’ the department has green-lit a ‘vanity exercise’ for the Chancellor, but sources insist the research is policy-focused.

Amy Gibbons
Saturday 21 May 2022 22:48
The Treasury has come under fire for authorising £500,000 of taxpayer money to be spent on focus groups and polls (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Treasury has come under fire for authorising £500,000 of taxpayer money to be spent on focus groups and polls (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Treasury has come under fire for authorising £500,000 of taxpayer money to be spent on focus groups and polls.

Procurement documents published by the Government show consultants Deltapoll were selected to carry out the work, with an option to extend the contract for another year – taking the potential total cost to £1 million.

The contract says the researchers are expected to carry out twice-weekly focus groups and weekly online polling over a 12-month period, ending in February 2023.

They should also produce “in-depth reports” on their findings, including analysis, on a monthly basis.

Labour said it was “simply staggering” the department had given the green light to “little more than a taxpayer-funded vanity exercise for a Chancellor desperate to repair his image”.

But a Treasury source insisted the research was policy-focused, rather than seeking feedback on Mr Sunak’s personal profile.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “At a time when Rishi Sunak has told the British people he has no money to ease the cost-of-living crisis, and that cutting their energy bills would be ‘silly’, it is simply staggering that he has ordered half a million more of taxpayer’s money to be spent on private focus groups and opinion polls.

“The Government apparently has half a million to spend on spin-doctors while Jacob Rees-Mogg is threatening to axe thousands of civil service jobs in the name of cost saving, throwing working people under the bus once again.

“At the start of the pandemic, the Treasury justified their spending on focus groups and polls as an emergency measure to test the impact of different policy options, but now this is little more than a taxpayer-funded vanity exercise for a Chancellor desperate to repair his image.

“He should not need to spend a small fortune on focus groups to hear what the British public are telling him: they want serious action to help with the cost-of-living crisis, starting with the adoption of Labour’s plan for a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas to fund cuts in energy bills.”

While the contract runs until February next year, the award letter states that it can be extended by a further 12 months, with a total value of £1 million.

A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “The Treasury conducts regular polling to help develop and measure the impact and understanding of its policies.

“All polling is subject to the usual tender process, ensuring the best value for taxpayers’ money.”

Last year, Boris Johnson’s Government was accused of “abusing” taxpayers’ cash after it emerged public funds were used to conduct polling on opposition politicians.

Documents released by the Good Law Project showed there were “questions asked” about Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The papers said the questions allowed the Government to assess the “credibility” of its own spokespeople against other political figures.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in