Fourth firm with links to Dominic Cummings awarded £640,000 in government work without an open tender process

Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings arrives in Downing Street. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (

Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings arrives in Downing Street. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images) - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

A PR firm with links to Dominic Cummings has been awarded £640,000 in government contracts without having to compete for them in an open tender process.

Hanbury Strategy, which was co-founded by ex-Vote Leave director Paul Stephenson won two government contracts to research 'public attitudes and behaviours in relation to' the pandemic, The Guardian has revealed.

The Cabinet Office and Treasury contracts were handed out under emergency regulations that permit the government to hire firms for urgent works without having to undergo a competitive tendering process, which is standard procurement protocol.

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The Cabinet Office also failed to publicise the contract within the mandatory 30-day period. It hired Hanbury on March 16, shortly before lockdown, and finalised a contract on June 30, a freedom of information request by the paper uncovered.

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Stephensen worked alongside Dominic Cummings as the director of communications for the 2016 Vote Leave campaign. He founded Hanbury with Ameet Gill, a former strategist for David Cameron in Downing Street.

That makes Hanbury the fourth firm with connections to the Tory party to ascertain government contracts without having to compete for them.

Topman Guerin, which worked on the Tory Party's 2019 digital campaign strategy, was handed £3 million to work on coronavirus messaging.

Research and consultancy firm Public First, owned by two long-term associates of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove, were given nearly £1 million in work during the pandemic while Faculty, an artificial intelligence firm hired by Cummings to work on the Vote Leave campaign, was awarded up to £3 million in contracts over two years.

Former Faculty employee Ben Warner, who worked with Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign and last year's Tory general election efforts, is now an adviser to Downing Street. His brother, Marc Warner, is a co-founder and the chief executive of Faculty.

The Guardian said that Stephenson was also one of the first people to be recruited by Cummings for the Vote Leave campaign and was a former adviser to two Tory ministers.

Hanbury was given £580,000 for work done up until the end of July while the Treasury paid £68,000 for it to undertake weekly public polling under a contract set to end this week.

The company also carried out the recruitment of political advisers to Downing Street and other government departments.

The Cabinet Office has refused to disclose a copy of its contract with Hanbury to The Guardian saying it plans to do so in the future.

A Hanbury spokesperson said: 'Our team includes some of the UK's leading experts in polling and data strategy. We have worked with political parties and governments of all stripes around the world, as well as leading businesses, thinktanks and charities. We are proud of the work we have carried out for the UK government to help the country through the Covid-19 crisis.'

A government spokesperson said the research conducted by Hanbury had made its messages more effective and helps ensure 'people have the information they need to keep themselves safe and take advantage of all the government support available to them'.

'In times of national emergency government procurement guidelines allow for direct awards for urgent requirements. These contracts are subject to all the usual transparency requirements.'

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