Public Sector: Aiken: nudge unit comments are 'dispiriting'

Westminster City Council's director of comms and strategy has hit out at the minister for government policy over a lack of clear outcomes at the so-called 'nudge unit'.

The 'nudge unit', formally known as the Behavioural Insights Team, was set up last July to 'nudge' people towards making choices that benefit society. In his PRWeek column, Alex Aiken criticises Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet minister responsible for the unit. Letwin last month told a committee of peers in the House of Lords that the unit was not guaranteed to work, but that it was low-cost with 'almost zero risk'.

Aiken writes: 'Few PR managers would survive telling a council scrutiny committee that they doubt whether their work "will have any effect whatsoever". You'd expect swift budget cuts and fundamental change to follow.'

The Cabinet Office, in which the group is based, confirmed that the nudge unit has seven government employees and costs £520,000 a year.

Aiken adds that it is 'dispiriting' that at a time when budgets are under necessary scrutiny, the Government can afford to spend this sort of money without being clear about outcomes.

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