The Tories have been accused of utilizing public funds to focus on voters in key swing constituencies by way of Facebook advertisements.
At least 17 adverts promising as much as £25 million funding in cities throughout the UK went stay on Tuesday, when the December 12 General Election was introduced.
They ran with no political disclaimer and have been taken down by Facebook shortly after 8.30pm on Friday.
The adverts have been a part of Government marketing campaign My Town, which seeks residents’ view on learn how to enhance the place they stay.
They focused voters in marginal seats reminiscent of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which has a Labour majority of simply 30 votes.
Other cities the place the advertisements appeared included Northampton, Milton Keynes and Mansfield – which had majorities of lower than 2,000 within the 2017 common election.
Labour MP Ian Lucas slammed it as an ‘outrageous’ misuse of public funds and has written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
He demanded to understand how a lot cash has been spent and the way selections have been remodeled who to focus on.
The adverts went stay when it turned clear a December election would happen however earlier than the Government entered purdah – the pre-election interval which requires it to stay impartial.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) stated plans for 100 locations to obtain as much as £25 million of funding have been introduced in September as a part of the £3.6 billion cities fund.
The division says it wished to ensure ‘local people help decide how this money is spent’.
A spokesman stated all chosen cities have been chosen in line with the identical methodology, together with evaluation of deprivation, publicity to Brexit, productiveness, financial system resilience and funding alternatives,” he stated.
He added: ‘The MyTown marketing campaign started on October 25 and has now ended within the run-up to the pre-election interval.
‘While the posts are still present on Facebook, they are no longer being promoted as the paid-for campaign has ended.’
But Lucas suggests it can not have been a coincidence that the advertisements went up on the identical day a common election was introduced.
He stated: ‘To say the Government didn’t know is an insult to our intelligence.
‘If the Conservatives want to run a political campaign, they should be doing it themselves with their own money.’
He stated it was ‘entirely inappropriate’ to make use of public funds on this approach and accused the federal government of ‘pretending these are public information ads’.
Lucas questioned how the cities have been focused and the place they obtained their data from.
He added: ‘Have they used the data from other Government-run campaigns – like Prepare for Brexit – and are now using it for political purposes?’
A Facebook spokesman stated: ‘The adverts run by the My Town Page weren’t appropriately labelled as being about social points.
‘Ads about social points, elections or politics that seem on our platforms ought to embrace a disclaimer supplied by advertisers.
‘We are currently working with the advertiser to help them better understand our policies and correctly label ads in the future.’