Rishi Sunak splurges £500,000 of taxpayers’ cash on focus group vanity project

Rishi Sunak: Pundits discuss Chancellor's ranking on rich list

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Researchers have been hired to carry out two focus groups and one online poll each week until February 2023, taking the total costs over two years to more than £1.35m according to Labour. The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the chancellor had shifted from testing public opinion about the Covid pandemic to making spending “a permanent fixture”.

The contracts were awarded after Mr Sunak “told the British people he has no money to ease the cost of living crisis and that cutting their energy bills would be ‘silly’”, Ms Rayner said.

She added: “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.”

“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.”

The first contract, costing £81,600 was introduced after Covid struck in 2020, with the government saying its purpose was “to inform immediate policy-making decisions and communications.”

Two more contracts worth £205,680 and £552,862 were given in August and December 2020 to test public opinion of the Treasury’s response to the pandemic.

But the new £500,000 poll with Deltapoll “makes no mention of the pandemic” as pointed out by Labour.

The Treasury denied the spending is an attempt to improve the chancellor’s public image and suggested the cost might not reach the full £500,000.

A 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.”

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Mr Sunak is facing increasing pressures with the rising living cost prices, with the new revelation only adding to his increasing backlash.

Information revealed under Freedom of Information laws reveals 16 out of 28 focus groups in 2020 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.

We have approached for comment.

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