The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has spent £3.1 million on external public relations agencies in the past year to promote its campaigns.
Last week the Conservative MP for Beckenham, Jacqui Lait, asked Environment Secretary Hilary Benn a parliamentary question: what external public relations work WRAP has commissioned in the last 24 months, from which companies or consultants and at what cost to the public purse.
In a written answer Benn said: During 2007-08, expenditure on external public relations agencies was £3.1 million, representing 4.3% of WRAPs budget for that year. In the current financial year (2008-09), the planned expenditure in this area is £2.9m, representing 5% of the overall budget for the year.
WRAP spent £36,000 to launch the Food We Waste report in May.
He said that WRAP commissions external public relations agencies to communicate its research, advice and consumer campaigns to a wide range of target audiences, both business and consumer.
Tax Payers Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said: This vast expenditure is unfair to the hardworking families who struggle to pay their tax bills. No matter what WRAP might imagine, people dont want their taxes to be spent on glossy advertising telling them how to live their lives. Government advertising has a notoriously low impact on peoples behaviour and given the economic climate this money would have been better off left in peoples pockets to help them feed their families.
But a WRAP spokeswoman said: We believe this spend represents good value. We are running three major national consumer campaigns, each targeted at every home in the country, and providing free communications resources to all local authorities.
The three campaigns: Recycle Now, Love Food Hate Waste and Home Composting, have been highly successful. In fact over this period the number of families which are committed recyclers has risen by 3.9 million, bringing the total to 32.5 million people or 64% of the population.
Since the launch of our food waste campaign last year, the amount of food waste sent to landfill has been reduced by 110,000 tonnes which is 500,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, resulting in savings of almost £275 million to consumers.
The spend on these campaigns is directly in line with other Government campaigns, such as the drink driving campaign.
WRAP has tough measures in place to ensure value for money from our outside agencies. We recently cut the number of PR agencies on our roster by almost half.