Dozens of MPs have spent a combined £165,000 of taxpayers’ cash getting their Facebook videos made by the same high-end Westminster social media firm.
The Mirror’s analysis found at least 42 MPs – almost all of them Conservatives – had paid public money to Westminster Digital, with some paying them a monthly ‘subscription’ of £500 every month.
The firm, branded the “Digikids of Westminster”, worked on video and social media content for a number of candidates in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, producing films for Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Penny Mordaunt.
The company is understood to have helped as many as 50 Tory MPs run social media campaigns in the run up to the 2019 election.
And founder Craig Dillon advised Boris Johnson on digital strategy for his 2019 leadership bid.
Tory vice-chairman Tom Pursglove appeared to be the biggest spender, paying the firm £500 most months since February 2018, at a total cost of £15,500.
And business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan spent £11,200 in 22 payments since January 2019.
The Mirror understands some of the MPs consider the ‘subscriptions’ a good deal – because it’s cheaper than employing a full time member of communications staff.
MPs can claim a maximum of £177,550 a year – or £188,860 for London MPs – for staff salaries.
On top of that, they can claim £25,910 a year – or £28,800 for London MPs – for office costs.
All of the MPs claimed for the Westminster Digital payments from their office costs budget.
There’s no suggestion that any of the MPs broke any rules by claiming expenses for the videos.
Andrew Scattergood, co-chair of campaign group Momentum, said: “MPs using public money to polish their profiles is just further evidence that some politicians are in it for themselves.
“The only answer is a democratic revolution that gives working people a decisive say in how our country is run.”
Westminster Digital says it is a “non-partisan” agency, which has worked with and offered its services too MPs from a range of parties.
Of the 42 MPs who have claimed payments to Westminster Digital on expenses since 2018, all but two are members of the Conservative Party.
Asked why their clients are almost exclusively Conservatives, a spokesman said: “Conservative Members of Parliament have traditionally struggled more with digital communication. This is most likely why we have worked more predominantly with Conservative MPs so far.
“But, I encourage any MP reading this, from any party, to reach out and enquire about how we can help them communicate important updates to constituents with clarity. After all, this helps to inform and engage communities about the work of their local representative.”
The Westminster Digital spokesperson said: “Through digital content and social media, we work to reach the politically disengaged with informative updates.
“Where other agencies depend on traditional media, we are looking forward to the future of political communication.”
“The more constituents are informed about the work of their Member of Parliament, and how their decisions impact on their daily lives, the more they will understand and engage with politics, and that has to be a good thing!
“We are proud to help all our clients to engage local constituents no matter their party politics.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “It’s not uncommon for MPs to use social media to promote the work they and the government are doing to help their constituents.”