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Spending Challenge: back with a whimper

Spending Challenge website

George Osborne is nothing if not persistent. First his much-derided Spending Challenge website was taken down after being swamped with racist and other offensive statements. Then his Spending Challenge Facebook page – announced via a much-trailed web conference between David Cameron and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – was deleted after it was beaten by a goat. And, finally, Robin Hood Tax launched their own, much more sensible, alternative.

But Spending Challenge is back for more.

Yesterday the Treasury unveiled a sanitised version of the website – with all visitor comments deleted – and asked the public to rate more than 44,000 suggestions received. The deadline is 31 August, which, as Chaminda Jayanetti points out, gives us a little over two minutes 20 seconds to consider each idea, assuming we don't stop to sleep.

Fortunately, most of the suggestions can be dealt with in rather less than two minutes. Despite the Great Cull, a disturbing number are still of the "I'm not racist but..." variety, while others are mind-numbingly repetitive, such as the hundreds calling for the High Speed 2 rail link to be scrapped. (An organised lobby? Surely not.)

But some of our favourite proposals have made it through, even though we did lose the popular "Beef and vegetable casserole" recipe and a "windfall tax on Tim Worstall". So there's still time to tell government to "wait until at least three fires have broken out in the same area before sending firemen out", "divert all welfare funding to nuclear weapons" (would that induce a Lib Dem veto?), and "FORCE MAN U 'FANS' TO LIVE IN MANCHESTER".

But if you only have time to vote for one idea, make it this:

"Create a website where the entire population of the UK can make absurd suggestions on how the Government can save money. Allow easy access and registration so that users can create multiple accounts to vote on their own suggestions."

Indeed that second sentence remains true. Astonishingly you can use the same fictitious email address to register and vote as many times as you like. The system doesn't even check your IP address to stop multiple voting from the same computer. MyDavidCameron.com had a more secure voting system than that – and that was about choosing funny posters, not deciding who should lose their jobs.

Some more reasonable submissions have made it past the censors too, though, including:

and, with startling clarity and irrefutable logic:

So, although Spending Challenge is devoid of legitimacy, it probably doesn't do any harm to vote for these – and what you do behind closed doors is up to you. Not that Osborne will be listening: his real consultation – the one with his City friends – also takes place behind closed doors, far from the maddening crowdsourcing of Spending Challenge.

Posted by Other TPA at 10:58am on 19 August 2010
Tags: Cuts,Spending Challenge

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Comments

Incredibly, you don’t have to provide a real e-mail address to register - so .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) turned out to be perfectly acceptable to rate ideas.

I’ve voted for the all the ones above, in a largely pointless but distracting waste of five minutes of my lunch break. Thanks for sharing them.

Posted by Kevin Blowe at 11:52am on 19 August 2010

Great - I just voted for all of those under the username BigDave registered to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)...

I too enjoyed wasting my lunchbreak

Posted by Zoe at 01:21pm on 19 August 2010

Great analysis. Unfortunately, the last paragraph of this story suggested that the “Spending Challenge” was a “consultation”. It isn’t. A consultation is run under the Government’s Code of Practice for Consultation [http://www.berr.gov.uk/policies/better-regulation/consultation-guidance], which states:

Consultation exercises should be designed to be accessible to, and clearly targeted at, those people the exercise is intended to reach.

Consultation documents should be clear about the consultation process, what is being proposed, the scope to influence and the expected costs and benefits of the proposals.

Consultation responses should be analysed carefully and clear feedback should be provided to participants following the consultation.

As none of these things have happened, I can only conclude that the Spending Challenge is not a consultation.

Posted by Dai at 02:47pm on 19 August 2010

I managed less than a minute on there, because most of the suggestions were so sickeningly bigoted.  One person was suggesting a Victorian “workhouse” style arrangement, whereby “the children of the poor” (not my words) would be fed at school, since their parents “can’t be bothered to feed them” (also not my words), and the parents of these unfortunate children would be made to work around the school, for example, litter picking, to earn their children’s meals.  This completely misses the point that not every poor person is unemployed, and also it displays a distinct lack of empathy or understanding for people who have less money than the commenter.

Sadly, most of the suggestions on there read like a list of comemnts on Daily Mail stories, and given the limitations of a site that allows people to vote as many times as they wish on their own suggestions, I hope the government discards the whole idea.

Posted by Press Not Sorry at 03:46pm on 19 August 2010

Encourage everyone in the UK to purchase a share of the debt (bond) with an incentivised interest rate proposal at least equivalent to the interest rate currently being paid to the world money market providers. At least interest would be kept within the UK and used to stimulate further economic growth

Posted by Kevin Lund at 04:12pm on 31 August 2010

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