Government comms spending triples as departments prepare for Brexit

The amount spent by the government on campaigns and comms staff has more than tripled over the past financial year due to the demands of Brexit, according to new data from the Cabinet Office.

Figures in the Whitehall department’s recently released annual report and accounts for 2018 reveal that Government communications expenditure rose to "£25m this year (2017-18: £8m) due to additional funding for EU Exit activity".

'No citizen left behind' strategy

The report stated: "The EU Exit Public Information Campaign is helping prepare the public, businesses, and both EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU, for leaving the EU."

It added: "The cross-departmental campaign has been centralised through the Cabinet Office to provide clear and consistent messaging to our audience and provide value for money, adopting a 'no citizen left behind' strategy to ensure people do not miss information critical to their livelihoods and quality of life."

Commenting on the level of investment, PRCA director-general Francis Ingham told PRWeek: "Quite frankly, £25m communicating the biggest political and economic change for at least a generation seems like the communication bargain of the century to me."

He added: "I remember very clearly the public information campaigns of the '80s and '90s – Aids; privatisations; and, rather ironically of course, the creation of the Single Market. Each of them criticised at the time, but each of them vital and productive." 

Big-money move

Government spending on informing people about Brexit is set to soar further over the coming weeks, as it prepares to embark on an advertising-led campaign that could cost £100m over the next three months.

Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid announced that £138m will be spent to "boost public communications" on Brexit.

The funding, part of £2.1bn being made available to help prepare the country for a no-deal scenario, will be spent on a new information campaign to help people and businesses get ready to leave on 31 October. It will also be used to increase consular support and information for Britons living abroad.

A government spokesperson said: "It is paramount that organisations, communities and citizens have the right information and support as the UK leaves the EU on the 31st of October."

They added: "That’s why we will launch a large-scale public information campaign setting out what business and the public need to know as we prepare to leave the EU."

This comes soon after Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, pledged: "We will shortly launch one of the biggest peacetime public information campaigns this country has seen, so that citizens, communities and businesses can prepare for what will happen if there is no deal."

Past performance

However, the Government’s Brexit comms to date have prompted criticism rather than plaudits.

A radio and internet campaign by the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) earlier this year was condemned by critics as "pathetic, horrible, patronising" and "shameful."

And in March, PRWeek revealed the divisions within the Government over the effectiveness of its Brexit comms.

Civil Service chief Sir Mark Sedwill rejected suggestions by members of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee – a Commons select committee – that the Government’s messaging on Brexit preparedness was failing to result in people taking action.

But an assessment of the implications of a no-deal Brexit, released by DExEU, admitted that comms had not had "the intended effect."

It said: "Despite communications from the Government, there is little evidence that businesses are preparing in earnest for a no-deal scenario, and evidence indicates that readiness of small and medium-sized enterprises in particular is low."

The assessment added: "Evidence suggests that individual citizens are also not preparing for the effects that they would feel in a no-deal scenario."


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