Treasury bosses have come under fire for allowing £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to be spent on focus groups and polls amid the cost of living crisis.
Deltapoll, an independent public opinion consultancy, has been selected to carry out the work with an option to extend the contract for another year, which would bring the potential total cost to £1m.
Labor said it was “simply stunning” that the department had given the green light to “little more than a taxpayer-funded exercise in vanity”.
Procurement documents released by the government show that the contract stipulates that researchers must conduct bi-weekly focus groups and weekly online surveys over a 12-month period, ending in February 2023.
They must also produce “in-depth reports” on their findings, including analyses, on a monthly basis.
A Treasury source insisted the search was policy-focused rather than seeking comments on Rishi Sunak’s personal profile.
Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said: ‘At a time when Rishi Sunak told the British people they had no money to ease the cost of living crisis and only reduce their health bills energy would be ‘stupid’, it’s just astounding that he ordered half a million more of taxpayers’ money to be spent on private focus groups and opinion polls.
“The government apparently has half a million to spend on spin-docs while Jacob Rees-Mogg threatens to cut thousands of civil service jobs in the name of cost cutting, once again throwing workers under the bus.
“At the start of the pandemic, the Treasury justified its spending on focus groups and polls as an emergency measure to test the impact of different policy options, but now it is little more than an exercise in vanity. taxpayer-funded for a Chancellor desperate to fix his image.
‘He shouldn’t need to spend a small fortune on focus groups to hear what the British public is telling him: they want serious action to help with the cost of living crisis, starting with the passage of the Labour’s plan for a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas to fund cuts in energy bills.
While the contract runs until February next year, the award letter says it can be extended for another 12 months.
A Treasury spokesperson said: ‘The Treasury conducts regular surveys to help develop and measure the impact and understanding of its policies. All surveys go through the usual competitive bidding process, ensuring the best value for taxpayer dollars.
On Friday, it emerged that Sunak had become the first frontline politician to be ranked among the UK’s richest people.
The former hedge fund manager and his Indian heiress wife Akshata Murty have been named in the Sunday Times Rich List as the 222nd richest people in the UK, with a combined fortune of £730million.
It came days after the Chancellor warned consumers that “the next few months will be difficult” as the cost of living crisis intensifies.
Last July, Boris Johnson’s government was accused of ‘abusing’ taxpayers’ money after it emerged public funds had been used to conduct polls on opposition politicians.
Documents released by the Good Law Project, a campaign organisation, showed there were “questions asked” about Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and Labor Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
The documents, which included emails, said the questions allowed the Conservatives to assess the “credibility” of their own spokespersons against other political figures.