Crowd-sourcing the cuts

As of December 2009, there were apparently 233, 848, 493 individual websites available for my viewing pleasure. Given that it’s 6 months later, you can probably add another 4 million sites to that number. So why, you may ask, when there is all that choice do I bother looking at HM Treasury’s website?

In fairness, 225 million of those sites are probably sites that I really wouldn’t want to look at. But then, as I don’t work in government or finance, I really shouldn’t want to look at the Treasury sites either.

However, as some of you will be aware already, those lovely people at 1 Horse Guards Road have come up with the wonder that is Spending Challenge. It’s gotten a bit of media coverage over whether it’s a good or bad idea to crowdsource ideas for cuts in public expenditure.

The truth is the Tories suck at using websites, and they have a habit of throwing together faux consultations and then ignoring all the suggestions they don’t like anyway. But the reason I’ve looked at this website is because of the comedy gold found therein.

As in anything where you ask the public to make suggestions, you get some hilarious ideas. I’m not entirely convinced everyone is taking it entirely seriously.

Take this suggestion

Employ Crocodiles in Benefits Offices: To discourage the feckless and unfortunate members of society from claiming their rights, a crocodile could be employed in every Benefits office in the UK. By keeping a crocodile in the waiting area, an air of uncertainty and disquiet could be developed, ensuring that applicants conclude interviews very quickly indeed, and in many cases without claiming all benefits properly due to them.

or maybe this one

Recruit Mrs Doyle as Foreign Trade Ambassador: Employ Mrs Doyle from Father Ted to visit all UN member states to offer them the things we’re selling. It’s simple and will be devastatingly effective. Imagine the scene as Mrs Doyle wheels her trolley of precision engineered components into the meeting room. “Mr Obama, will yer have a new British electrical fuel cell…? Will ya? Go on… Just a little one… Go on go on go on… Gwan gwan gwan gwan gwan…”. British exports will sky-rocket!

The downside of mining for snippets of hilarity, is that you have to wade through some horrendous right-wing policy ideas. The crocodile idea is just the start of it. The great majority of the policy suggestions are decidedly right-of-centre. From abolishing OfStEd, through sending immigrants ‘back where they came from’, to re-opening workhouses and sterilizing single mothers.

I  have to wonder, given that the government isn’t going to take any notice of these ideas, how worthwhile this site is. We all know the government will ignore any ideas that don’t fit with their pre-existing policy ideas anyway. Any suggestions that don’t fit the Tory-LibDem agenda are only going to get ignored. No matter how good they are.

Seriously, the next Maynard-Keynes could put something up there, but if it doesn’t sit well with Cameron and Osborne, 21st century Keynes could fall into a life of crime and degeneracy. OK, probably not that seriously. But you get my point.

In a time of cost-cutting, job reduction, and budgetary constraint, isn’t the Spending Challenge just an expensive PR sham being paid for by the tax payer?


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