Government to halve advertising budget

In recent weeks and months, we have seen a number of spending cuts and other policies initially recommended by the TPA adopted by the Government, ranging from the abolition of certain quangos such as the RDAs to the public sector pay freeze and scrapping preventing violent extremism grants from local authorities. This morning, we had another victory, this time over government advertising expenditure.

News coming out of the Central Office of Information, the agency responsible for government PR, points to a 52 per cent reduction in COI advertising and marketing turnover from the same time last year. Spending in this area has increased massively since 1997, from £108 million to £540 million in 2009. In our book, How to Cut Public Spending (and still win an election), we called for this figure to be halved, producing a saving of £270 million for the taxpayer. The 52 per cent reduction meets this request and promisingly, the COI have said that “the new government has made it clear that this reduction in spend should be expected to continue into the future.”

There are some circumstances where public sector advertising is genuinely needed.  We cited the 2009 influenza pandemic in our book as one example where some marketing is warranted. But the swelling of this budget in the last decade has coincided with extensive and expensive ‘nanny state’ PR campaigns paid for by you, the taxpayer. These campaigns simply do not offer value for money.  Halving this budget will still mean more money is spent on advertising and marketing than in 1997.

Tough decisions are having to being made from one end of Whitehall to the other with a £156 billion budget deficit. The decision to cut the bloated public sector advertising budget (the benefits of which have been highly questionable) is a relatively easy way of saving.

By Jago Pearson

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