Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up

Of the 45,000 proposals submitted to the government's much hyped ‘Spending Challenge’, only three have been taken up, reports Matthew Pitt.

Upon entering the Treasury, George Osborne announced a revolutionary step to realise ‘open government’. He asked the general public to submit ideas on how to reduce the budget deficit. At the end of the video transcript advertising the ‘Spending Challenge’ programme, the Chancellor proclaims that the coalition government “needs you – please get in touch”. And so they did. Over the summer, an eager public submitted approximately 45,000 ideas.

Some of them were not exactly constructive. Irreverent suggestions ranged from the government buying all existent opium crops in Afghanistan to deprive the Taliban of their primary income, to taxing the salaries of world-class Premier League football players at 95 per cent.

But a lot of the ideas were genuinely helpful. One, for example, suggested centralising all office stationery in order to improve management and reduce costs; another complained about the generous allowances for Foreign and Commonwealth Office accommodation that should be accordingly reduced; and there was a call for closer cooperation between district and county councils in order to level employment rights across the pay structure.

So out of the thousands of useful ideas, how many did the Treasury decide to implement into their policies? Challenged by shadow transport minister Willie Bain in a Parliamentary Question, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander replied as follows:

“The Government have committed to reviewing the ideas with the most potential and, on Friday 10 September, announced that three ideas submitted to the Spending Challenge by members of the public and public sector workers will be implemented as policy by the Government.

The ideas were:

• To reduce the number of CRB checks for junior doctors, by taking a more common-sense approach across the NHS, so that junior doctors are not checked repeatedly over a short space of time;
• To distribute national insurance numbers to people with a letter rather than a plastic card; and

• To increase the selling of surplus and second hand Government equipment by expanding the use of the Ministry of Defence’s eDisposals service for use across all Government Departments.

So, was the ‘Spending Challenge’ successful and did it help realise the ‘Big Society’? To answer this question with a ‘yes’ on both counts requires substantive public engagement and the government to have taken part in a meaningful exchange with public workers on how to save money.

Despite the Facebook page of the Spending Challenge having been removed soon after a fanpage for a goat achieved its aim of attracting more ‘likes’, it is fair to say that the public did play its part in submitting thousands of constructive proposals. By only accepting three of these, the Treasury showed clear reluctance to stay true to its programme. In consequence, it can only be assumed to have failed.

Nevertheless, the government still has time to implement ideas submitted by the public in the October 20th Spending Review to redeem itself of the accusation that the Spending Challenge was a meaningless practice that only served as a justification for cuts to come that the Treasury planned to introduce all along.

Perhaps what the Treasury ought to have done is consult the public on its overall strategy of cancelling the structural deficit by 2015 instead of focusing on the minute economic details. Furthermore, polls have shown the majority of the public opposes Mr Osborne’s approach to deficit reduction.

29 Responses to “Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up”

  1. Bryan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  2. Other TaxPayers Alli

    And not even our three! RT @leftfootfwd Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  3. Nick Copland

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  4. Derek Bryant

    RT @OtherTPA And not even our three! RT @leftfootfwd Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  5. Shamik Das

    Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW reports Matthew Ian Pitt on @leftfootfwd

  6. Tim Beadle

    RT @OtherTPA: And not even our three! RT @leftfootfwd Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  7. mark wright

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  8. Sam Korn

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, 3 are taken up: //bit.ly/ajhKHW > and how much saved vs spent on the challenge?

  9. Kai Rudat

    #crowdsourcing of #efficiency ideas: of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up! not exactly #bigsociety collaborative? //bit.ly/dlzjBu

  10. billbest

    RT @leftfootfwd: "Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up": //bit.ly/ajhKHW << Whither #bigsociety? #21cco

  11. Total Place

    RT @kairudat: #crowdsourcing of #efficiency ideas: 45,000 ideas, 3 are taken up! not exactly #bigsociety collaborative? //bit.ly/dlzjBu

  12. Rich Watts

    RT @kairudat: #crowdsourcing of #efficiency ideas: 45,000 ideas, 3 are taken up! not exactly #bigsociety //bit.ly/dlzjBu

  13. Evidence based.

    So, you wonuldn’t ask the public their views on this then? Evil tories deferring power and consulation to local people away from the the benevolent state. Sickens you doesn’t it? If it is a problem that only three ideas were taken up, be useful and tell us what else should have been. Stop decending into dreary opposition for oppositions sake. Your job is publically funded (you are trading off that position so it is relevant), so do something in the public’s interest.

  14. Mike Alderson

    RT @totalplace #crowdsourcing of #efficiency ideas: 45,000 ideas, 3 are taken up! not exactly #bigsociety collaborative //bit.ly/dlzjBu

  15. Matthew Pitt

    @ Evidence based. Evidently, the public did take up the call to submit ideas for the Treasury to judge and possibly implement. But because the Treasury has evidently not taken the suggestions seriously, it is doubtful what motive was behind the Spending Challenge programme. This is not an article that is aimed to disagree with the motion of holding serious and effective talks with the public. It is an article that points out how tragically irrelevant the programme was to involve the people in debating the public spending cuts that will affect each and every person in the UK.

  16. Taxation

    RT @leftfootfwd Government spending challenge: 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  17. LucentumTaxTips

    RT @Taxation: RT @leftfootfwd Government spending challenge: 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  18. Lucentum Ltd

    RT @Taxation: RT @leftfootfwd Government spending challenge: 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up //bit.ly/ajhKHW

  19. Ed

    Buying up the opium crop in Afghanistan might be a good idea. There are large areas in France and Hungary that currently grow and harvest opium for the pharmaceutical industry to turn into morphine. Instead of destroying the crop in Afghanistan and depriving the inhabitants of an income they could be purchased and sold onto the pharmaceutical industry instead thus depriving the Taliban of an income and keeping the heroin off the streets. It would also destroy the drug gangs that operate through Iran and Turkey smuggling heroin into the west. Will it work – worth a try?

  20. Osborne House

    “Despite the Facebook page of the Spending Challenge having been removed soon after a fanpage for a goat achieved its aim of attracting more ‘likes’”

    For gawds sake you stupid myopic lefty – it was a fake page – why do’t you lefties get it !!!!!!!

  21. Antonine Wall

    “Irreverent suggestions ranged from the government buying all existent opium crops in Afghanistan to deprive the Taliban of their primary income…” It was also a suggestion made by Jim Murphy MP about six or seven years ago

  22. Simon Landau

    3 out of 45,000 is a poor return by any standards. The idea to recruit suggestions from users and providers of public serviceswas perfectly valid and common in kaizen continuous improvement across the UK. What it shows however is how removed the spending cuts challenge is from any lean philosophy and how little groundwork has been done to embed it in the government’s work. Death by a thousand cuts accompanied by death by a thousand initiatives now that is a recipe for disaster.

  23. Ellen Power

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 taken up //bit.ly/dlzjBu ; Was it just window dressing for intended cuts?

  24. Andrew Biden

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up //bit.ly/dlzjBu < something to laugh at before bedtime! 🙂

  25. evidence based? really?

    Fine. My point is that it is easy to critisise, difficult to state what shouldn’t have been included. If you object to there only having been three, then use foi to good effect and decide what should have been included. Only then can you objectively critique govt policy.

  26. Alistair Sinclair

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up //bit.ly/dlzjBu

  27. Overheid 2.0 (NL)

    Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up | Left Foot Forward: //bit.ly/h8Usae

  28. E-Gov Herald

    Gov 2.0: Spending Challenge – of 45,000 ideas, just 3 are taken up | Left Foot Forward //s3g.me/e6f

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