NAO report finds that government drive had limited impact on public preparedness
Credit: David Cliff/NurPhoto/PA Images
Just 3.2% of the UK adult population completed the government’s online Brexit-readiness check during a £46m communications campaign led by the Cabinet Office.
A review from the National Audit Office found that UK citizens were not, on the whole, “significantly better prepared” as a result of the ‘Get ready for Brexit’ campaign that ran during September and October last year.
A budget of £100m was allocated for the comms drive, of which close to half had been spent when the campaign was paused on 28 October.
A range of activities – including print and broadcast adverts, as well as online information and a readiness questionnaire – were undertaken in a bid to ensure the public was prepared for an EU exit that was, at the time, scheduled for 31 October.
According to the NAO, over the course of the campaign, Brexit-related pages on GOV.UK received 42.9 million unique visits, while the main GOV.UK/Brexit page had 4.3 million unique visits.
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Some 2.6 million people started to use the checker tool and two-thirds of these – 1.7 million – completed it.
This equates to just 3.2% of the 52.4 million adults that live in the UK.
The spending watchdog found that 34% of UK citizens said they had either looked at or had started to look at information on Brexit preparedness at the time the campaign was stopped – a figure that was “broadly unchanged from the beginning of the campaign”.
“It ranged between 32% and 37% during the campaign and was 34% when the campaign stopped,” the NAO found.
Auditors acknowledged that the Cabinet Office, which ran the campaign, “quickly assembled a team” to work on the project, which came together in just six weeks, rather than the standard five months for a government TV push, and that the team had to “communicate multiple messages to multiple audiences, amid great political uncertainty”.
NAO head Gareth Davies said: “At short notice, the Cabinet Office successfully corralled multiple government departments to work together effectively and launched this complex campaign at great speed. However, it is not clear that the campaign resulted in the public being significantly better prepared. If the Cabinet Office faces a similar challenge in the future, it should, from the start, focus much more on what impact is needed and how best to deliver the behaviour change required by government, targeting spending on the activities that are likely to add the greatest value.”
Responding to the NAO report, a government spokesperson said: “The Get ready for Brexit campaign reached 99.8% of the UK population and the NAO’s findings showed increased public awareness of the action they needed to take to be ready to leave the EU. Not undertaking the campaign would have risked significant and unnecessary disruption to businesses and to people’s lives.”