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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Government is biggest advert spender
Alistair Darling, Social Security Secretary, launches a stakeholder pensions poster this month
Government spending on adverts has risen steadily
The government has become the UK's biggest spender on advertising, industry figures reveal.

Its advertising campaigns bill topped 16.4m in February, overtaking consumer giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

This is yet more evidence of a government obsessed with spin

Michael Ancram
Conservative Party Chairman
Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram claimed the figures, published on Monday by media monitoring service ACNielsen MMS, showed the government was "obsessed with spin".

A survey of the world's 10 biggest advertising markets in the latest edition of trade magazine Ad Age Global suggests the government's spending is unusually high.

Canada is the only other country where the government appears among the top 10 advertisers.

In February, detergent company Unilever was just behind the government, spending 12.2m, with Procter & Gamble in third on 10.1m.

The biggest government campaigns that month aimed to encourage families to claim the new children's tax credit, to recruit more nurses and to urge people to plan their pensions.

Rising spending

The figures show government spending on advertising has risen steadily since Labour was elected.

It increased to 102.7m in 2000 - more than double the 43.8m spent in 1997.

Last year, the government was the UK's fourth largest advertiser, behind Unilever, Procter & Gamble and BT.

Mr Ancram said: "This is yet more evidence of a government obsessed with spin, prepared to spend taxpayers' money on mass advertising which should have been used on improvements to public services, such as recruiting more police and teachers and providing cleaner hospitals."

A Labour Party spokesman denied that taxpayers' money was being used to promote party policies in the run-up to the general election.

'Legitimate purpose'

"Each of the campaigns is for the legitimate purpose of imparting important information to the public," he said.

"There are significant changes in the spring that people need to know about."

"The money spent on the campaigns is a fraction of what is available for distribution in the case of the children's tax credit, for example.

Each of the campaigns is for the legitimate purpose of imparting important information to the public

Labour Party spokesman
"All governments in the past have advertised what they have been doing."

New poster

Labour will this week launch a new party-funded campaign to highlight its achievements as the election approaches.

Featuring a woman and child with the slogan "The work goes on", it is meant to suggest hard-working families have benefited under Labour.

The party's general election co-ordinator and Paisley South MP Douglas Alexander said: "Our latest poster campaign reflects both our achievements in government and our ambitions for Britain.

"Labour has delivered a great a lot to the British people, but we know there is still much to do, so the work goes on."

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29 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Bill saves posters from the shredder
19 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Election leaflets may be pulped
15 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Parties fail to agree adverts code
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