Brook Lyndhurst on DEFRA Climate Propaganda

The consultants Brook Lyndhurst have responded to the Daily Mail story about our report on the Climate Challenge Fund.  You can almost hear the panic as a report they hoped would only be read by starry-eyed civil servants gets picked up by a campaign group investigating wastes of government money and a hard hitting newspaper.  All of a sudden they are being mentioned in reports that their employers at DECC won't have wanted to read.  Not good news if you make your living from securing Government contracts.

They don't appear to have identified any real problems with our report or the Daily Mail write-up though.

"First, far from describing the projects supported by the fund as having ‘failed’, we repeatedly stated in our report that we were “unable to take a view on the overall success or otherwise of CCF projects in raising awareness and generating positive attitudinal change”. This was not because we found that the projects’ attempts to engage with the public had been a waste of time and money, but simply because the data that was available on their impact was of insufficient quality to be able to judge this one way or the other."

There are two categories of projects here.  There are some which, despite huge amounts of taxpayer subsidy, can produce no evidence of their effectiveness or ineffectiveness.  There are others where there is some evidence and it overwhelmingly suggests that the schemes failed to achieve their objectives.  If that's all there is to show for a multi-million pound scheme like the CCF that's pretty dismal.  What evidence we have suggests the scheme has failed, and one of the ways it has failed is that proper procedures weren't in place to measure success or failure more accurately.

"Second, and in many ways more importantly, the article wrongly portrays our report as a judgement on the performance of specific projects. The evaluation was only ever intended to assess the performance of the CCF against its own policy objectives, rather than meting out commendation or castigation to individual initiatives."

The Brook Lyndhurst report may not have come to conclusions about individual projects.  But it did present plenty of evidence about those projects, and we discovered more looking into some of them ourselves.  For example, the number of times that the Operation Climate Control game had been played was reported in the evaluation, and from that we worked out that it cost £47 per session.  That evidence was presented in the Daily Mail article and our research note and video.  Ordinary taxpayers can come to their own view about whether this is how they want their money spent:

"This openness and transparency is jeopardised if evaluation is framed simply as a mechanism for passing down judgement from above. The danger is not that articles like the one published last week will cause the British public to suddenly decide that climate change is a con, but rather that the very projects that are seeking to tackle climate change will feel reticent about contributing fully to similar evaluations, making it far harder to ensure that lessons can be learned for the future."

Frankly, those projects will have to get over it or stop taking taxpayers' money.  The public have a right to know how their money is spent and participating in an evaluation should be a non-negotiable part of taking public money.

As for transparency, the report sat on DECC's desk for months, out of the public eye.  We published it first and it only went on the DECC website after it had been dug out by our FOI request.  Are there any other Brook Lyndhurst reports we haven't heard about yet?

"Last, the CCF evaluation highlighted a number of ways in which the Fund had been effective, not least in creating millions of opportunities for engaging individual consumers around climate change issues."

Yes, if you buy advertising space - as many of these projects did - then you will create lots of "opportunities" to engage with people.  That isn't a success, it's just a basic output from spending lots of taxpayers' money.  That doesn't show that the projects have performed well, even if we accept that persuasive climate change propaganda is a legitimate objective.

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