MAS under fire for hefty marketing expenses and boardroom salaries

The Citizens Advice Bureau last week hit out at the “colossal” marketing budget of the Money Advice Service, saying it should be redirected into front-line services.

Speaking to MPs at the Treasury sub-committee inquiry into the MAS on Wednesday last week, Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy questioned why the MAS has invested in such a large brand-building exercise.

The MAS plans to spend £19m of its £46.3m 2012-13 budget on marketing and brand awareness.

Guy says: “The marketing budget looks colossal because £20m provides all our debt advice, for example. We haven’t seen a business case for marketing. If I were to go to my board of trustees and ask for about a third of that amount for marketing I would expect to have to bring a case about what I expect to achieve and how I would evaluate it.

“I don’t know how involved the FSA will become in it but I find it difficult to understand where the checks and balances are on that sum of money – £80m over four years and seemingly to no great effect.”

Guy also says Citizens Advice could provide all the services of MAS but it does not have the resources to do so.

She says: “There is nothing I’m aware of that we couldn’t do. The difficulties we have are, firstly, the duplication. We don’t need another telephone or web service, we need capacity within existing services. Secondly, we don’t therefore need a focus on creating a brand and taking resources away from that capacity that is crying out for more investment.”

Guy revealed her salary is “less than £175,000” and her board members were on significantly less than those of MAS. She agreed with Tory MP Jesse Norman that there is a completely different ethos at MAS compared with Citizens Advice, and its board members are “paying themselves like a large corporation”.

Tony Hobman was criticised for his £350,000 salary as chief executive and quit the organisation in July.

Former Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban was due to appear before the committee last week until he was moved to employment minister in the reshuffle. The Treasury sub-committee will hear from his replacement, former planning and decentralisation minister Greg Clark, in a few weeks.