Labour accused Rishi Sunak of spending taxpayers’ money on “a vanity exercise for a Chancellor desperate to repair his image.”
Rishi Sunak has signed off a taxpayer-funded contract worth half a million pounds for focus groups and online polls.
Researchers Deltapoll have been brought in to carry out two targeted focus groups and one national online poll each week until February 2023 under the Treasury’s direction – at a rate of £9,805 per week.
It will take the Treasury’s total spending on private focus groups and opinion polls since June 2020 to more than £1.35 million – or £41,000 per month.
Labour 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.”
Some £250,000 of taxpayers’ cash was spent on on focus groups in 2020, with more than half taking place in Tory target seats.
Information revealed under Freedom of Information laws reveals 16 out of 28 focus groups took place in the North East, North West, Midlands and Scotland.
Four sessions took place in Scotland and only one in Wales.
A further four were held in the East Midlands, two in West Midlands – but only one in London.
The 2020 focus groups, undertaken by Hanbury Strategy, were ordered to test public opinion to the Government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.
But the new contract with Deltapoll makes no mention of the pandemic.
Ms Rayner said: “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.”
A HM Treasury spokesperson 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.”