A major Tory donor has benefited from a government department’s spending spree on advertising by featuring in taxpayer-funded newspaper adverts and promotional videos.
JCB and its billionaire owners donated more than £1 million to the Conservative party in the financial year 2014-15, Electoral Commission records show.
In the same time period, the Government more than doubled the advertising budget of UK Export Finance, a department that promotes Britain’s export industry.
In November last year Robert Winter, a director at JCB, was pictured in a quarter-page advert in the Sunday Times, posing in front of a row of the company’s trademark yellow diggers.
Mr Winter also appeared in a video posted on the Government’s website as a case study of how UKEF has helped JCB “build and maintain its business in new and challenging markets”, allowing the company to show off a whole range of its vehicles.
UKEF also published the video on YouTube, broadening JCB's reach even further.
JCB’s headquarters in Staffordshire has been used by the Government as the location for several prominent speeches, announcements and PR visits.
Downing Street chose it as the location for David Cameron's long-awaited speech on immigration last November, which generated a large amount of media exposure for the construction and equipment firm.
George Osborne visited the company immediately after delivering his 2013 Autumn Statement, again attracting media coverage for JCB.
Transparency data revealed that the firm smoothed the trip for the Chancellor by providing a helicopter, meaning he did not waste too much time travelling up north for the PR stunt.
Other UKEF publications that feature JCB include the promotional brochure 'How UK Export Finance is Helping UK Business: Making Exports Happen' and another document titled 'Competitive export finance for growth'.
JCB and the Bamford family have donated nearly £6 million to the Conservative party.
Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB and his brother Mark are long-term supporters of the Tories and together with Lord Bamford’s son George, the three of them have personally donated more than £2 million to the Conservative party since the Electoral Commission obliged parties to disclose donations over £7,500 in 2001.
Donations from three companies owned by the family – JC Bamford Excavators Ltd, JCB Research and JCB Sales Ltd – total £4 million.
Labour said government ministers had “serious questions to answer”. Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth said: “This smacks of cronyism. It seems taxpayers’ money is being spent promoting a major Tory donor.
“The Tories are ramping up advertising spending in advance of the election, looking after their mates and their electoral interests in the process. People expect better and will not accept public funds being used in this way.”
A Conservative party spokesman said: “We are proud to be backed by a great British success story, a British company that employs thousands of people here in the UK and operates around the globe.
“Unlike Labour, donations to the Conservative party do not buy our policies, our leader of our candidates.“
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies