Government’s Spending Challenge website now offers you comedy gold


by Clifford Singer    
9:15 am - July 14th 2010

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The government’s Spending Challenge website, launched last week on Friday, invites us to send our ideas for cuts.

A team has been put together right at the heart of government," claims the blurb on the homepage, "and their job is to make sure that your ideas and comments are taken seriously."

Which is deeply worrying, because for the most part the contributors to Spending Challenge give the impression that they have moved there directly from the Daily Express comments board.

Many entries have little bearing on government doing "more for less" and instead reflect personal hobby-horses, like the ubiquitous "Bring Back Capital Punishment".

Others are exercised by "benefit scroungers", such as the contributor who wants to sterilise young girls who "just breed at will".

One of the most popular tags is "immigration". Entries here tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • racist ranting written entirely in lower case
  • RACIST RANTING WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS

The former includes a post, "there is only one way to save money", which states:

"now i am not a racist person but this country has had problems since the early 60′s we need to decrease the number of immergrants in the uk i walk dow the street only to see hundreds of illegal immergrants that cant even speak english and i mean polish and muslims mainly and most of themare working in our local shops and local call centres."

The latter includes "STOP IMMIGRATION START REPATRIATION", which even links to a Facebook group.

All of which has led one contributor to ask: "Is the moderator asleep?" The answer seems to be yes, as many hateful comments remain online despite being having been highlighted on Twitter and in blogs since the weekend. Some users have helpfully added the tag “Racist” to offending posts to assist the sleepy moderator.

Where is the TaxPayers’ Alliance when you need it? Why is the govenment spending our taxes on a repository of racial, sexist and homophobic hate? The BNP already has a website.

Happily, there are some more enjoyable moments to be found amongst the dross.

1. Here are some austerity-inspired measures:

2. There is also a highly-rated recipe for "Beef and vegetable casserole", described by one visitor as "the most sensible thing I have read on this site".

3. And is it just possible that Ed Balls has joined in too, with a suggestion to "Send one Miliband brother to Africa to supplement international aid"? "In this age of austerity we can’t really afford two of them," writes "jeesus"/Balls, who adds thoughtfully: "Flights have a huge carbon footprint so he should be sent there with a boat."

4. Perhaps the most ingenious suggestion is entitled "Create Spending Challenge Website":

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. As hundreds of thousands of citizens will be sat on their computer, they will not be a drain on resources outside their own homes such as roads, police, oxygen etc. Saving money.

It’s obvious this simple crowdsourced approach, while perfect for the Photoshopped fun of MyDavidCameron, is entirely ill-suited to developing policy.

But for now we must make do with cut-and-paste ranting, which means this might be the only Spending Challenge suggestion that actually works: "Charge £10 a go for suggesting ‘make benefit claimants work for their money’ on this site."


Cross-posted from Other TPA, where there’s a longer version

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About the author
This is a guest contribution. Clifford Singer runs The Other Taxpayer's Alliance website. You can join the Facebook group here.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Humour ,Media


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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

This is exactly why they decided to scrap the E-Petitions service. Its only purpose seems to be exposing people in their hilarious stupidity.

On that note, this is pretty much the best (i.e. worst) thing ever: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/commonsenseact/

Yesterday in parliament Angela Eagle asked Danny Alexander (the “Liberal” Chief Secretary to the Treasury) whether he was happy that his website was hosting “…drivel, rascist and offensive”.

He simply replied, whilst smirking, wondering why Ms Eagle was not supportive of the government’s cut consultation.

I really am quite staggered that he finds rascist, xenophobic and highly discriminatory language funny and more to the point acceptable.

With New Labour, I had the sense that we were being run by a student union. With the wonderful ‘coalition’, it’s worse, much worse…. they’re like schoolchildren taking over a sweet shop. Do the have a clue what they’re actually doing?

Most people who contribute anonymously to websites are morons and loons. Film at eleven.

Lovely bit of self-awareness there, Tim ‘J’ from ‘London’.

5. Flowerpower

One would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at all the middle-class, middle-brow lefties who frequent this blog squealing with outrage when they find that the masses they have invested so heavily in politically turn out to be such a disappointment: …..foul-mouthed, racist and thick.

See also: ‘Flowerpower’ from Uphisownarsehole.

#5: IT’S JUST A HUNCH, BUT COULD IT BE THAT THE PEOPLE WHO HANG ABOUT ON WEBSITES RANTING IN CAPITALS ARE A VERY SELF-SELECTING PART OF “THE MASSES”?

8. Chaise Guevara

“foul-mouthed, racist and thick”

Which doesn’t describe you, of course, because you don’t swear all that often.

4 – I’m hardly anonymous. I post under my own name and link to a blog that has a picture of me as my profile and probably has more than enough information on it to identify me should anyone care enough to make the effort.

My fave thing about this was the Mail’s attempt to knock the site – and then being deluged with comments saying “Damn right we should sterilize chavs… I’m not racists, but… I have nothing against gay people, but … etc etc etc”.
I think we know (as if we didn’t already) where all those suggestions came from.

“I’m hardly anonymous”

Fair enough. If I ever bump into a blurry-looking bloke wearing cricket whites and answering to a one-letter surname, I’ll know it’s you.

11 – Sure thing ‘Neil’.

Always fun to see self proclaimed democrats shying in distaste when they actually meet Vox Populi.

Tims, why don’t you put some of your suggestions up, so we can see what the Vox Populi make of them?

Like you do Tim whenever somebody suggests a minium wage isn’t entirely a bad idea.

16. Chaise Guevara

“Always fun to see self proclaimed democrats shying in distaste when they actually meet Vox Populi.”

So do you think the ‘internet suggestion site’ system is the best form of democracy? Or shall we go with the live phone-in system, a la X-Factor?

Force cats to spend one hour per day on electrical treadmills?

I can see how that might work with dogs, but cats??

Planeshift at 15 – that’s unfair.

W doesn’t ‘shy in distaste’. He stands firm, adopts his best condescending tone and runs through a litany of communist dictator’s names interspersed with the phrases ‘economic idiot’, ‘ASI’ and ‘I trade scandium, you know, did I mention that?’.

@13 Tim W

The voice of the people may indeed be the voice of God…. but I for one am rather glad not to live in a society governed according to “direct democracy”, or even one which is too keen to kow tow to the whims of the great British public. Perhaps you are rather more sanguine about the good sense and rationality of the great unwashed Tim?

I have a suspicion we’d soon be back to the likes of public floggings and executions… or perhaps I’m just too much of a “self proclaimed democrat” eh?

@Tim Worstall

Always nice to see a self-described intellectual make a strawman argument. Oh wait!

Anyway, here in the real world there are some cracking bits of satire (intentional or otherwise) to be found on there such as this: http://spendingchallenge.hm-treasury.gov.uk/how-can-we-rethink-public-services-to-deliver-more-for-less/amalgamate-education-dept-and-hm-prisons-service

@Galen10

Potentially libellous, I’m sure Tim washes regularly and thoroughly.

More fantastic work from contributor “markpaulwoodhouse”, this time in the comment thread for How dare EMA recipients not spend their money.

“A very sensible suggestion. I do support your viewpoint to some extent. I beleive that EMA should be scrapped and a replacement bought in that targets engineering and science ‘A’ levels. It should be called something like Student Help In Technology and would need a catchy acronym.”

“but I for one am rather glad not to live in a society governed according to “direct democracy”, or even one which is too keen to kow tow to the whims of the great British public. Perhaps you are rather more sanguine about the good sense and rationality of the great unwashed Tim? ”

Oh, good grief no. I have a much less sanguine view of my fellow Britons. Which is exactly why I prefer things to be well outside of government and the voting system.

“a self-described intellectual”

No, not something I’ve ever laid claim to. Odd ideas to go with the weird haircut and the straggly beard, yes….intellectual, no.

“I prefer things to be well outside of government and the voting system.”

Must… Resist… Punchline…

25. memespring

The website also isn’t escaping user comments. Amateurs. Wonder where we are along the Cash Gordon curve? http://bit.ly/buYl4h

26. PrimlyStable

One poster has simply used the text of ‘A Modest Proposal’ as a means of getting people off benefits. Several comments from angry people who accuse “JonathanSwift” of being “middle-class” and writing “nonsense”.

They seem to have taken down my suggestion to deport anyone who spells “immigration” incorrectly when calling for immigrants to be deported.

27. Matt Munro

What’s your issue ? Obviously any public fora will generate eccentric ideas but they will get weeded out.

“I prefer things to be well outside of government and the voting system.”

Must… Resist… Punchline…

Please don’t.

Upper-class toffs get new toy to play with for the aid to guffaw at the masses. Where are the TPA wankers, indeed! Guffawing with the rest of the utter shits!

What is bad though, once you look into this, is the really bad spelling and grammar! And these fuckers in government are going to under-fund schools for another generation!

BASTARDS!

Err, Will….

It’s Clifford who has decided to highlight all these silly/ridiculous/appalling things that the masses want/believe.

Not me.

Me, I expect all of this, I’m not shocked by it at all. And in there, among all those stupidities, there will be some sensible things to do.

Which is, of course, why we need markets….so that that cream of sensible things can rise to the top.

@29

Which is, of course, why we need markets….so that that cream of sensible things can rise to the top.

Is that why the privatisation of rail has been such a success in Blighty, and not at all inefficient or wasteful in delivering the best outcomes for consumers..?

Erm..?

“Is that why the privatisation of rail has been such a success in Blighty, and not at all inefficient or wasteful in delivering the best outcomes for consumers..?”

The interesting insight is that Mrs T made Nicholas Ridley secretary of state for transport 1983/6, perhaps with a view to privatising the railways while he was in that office. But he came to the conclusion that the railways shouldn’t be privatised. His rationale was that the railways would need continuous subsidies from the public purse to maintain a network for social reasons and on a scale that should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny and accountability through a responsible minister.

Mrs Thatcher acknowledged him as her mentor. “Free-market economics was always Nick’s passion. And he had a longer, better pedigree in that respect than most Thatcherites—or indeed I may add—than Thatcher herself. His first vote against a Conservative Government bailing out nationalised industries was in 1961. To be so right, so early on, is not to have seen the light—it is to have lit it…He would have been a superb Chancellor.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Ridley%2C_Baron_Ridley_of_Liddesdale

John Major’s government privatised the railways in the year Nicholas Ridley died – 1993.

i wonder if MrS Pill at 30 remembers the days of the nationalized industries…ah yes the wonderful cars built by British Leyland, how we all pine for them. A Honda built by a private company in the 80s might still be driveable. Anything built by BL will be a heap of rust unless it has been lovingly reconstructed lock, stock and walnut veneer instrument panel.

British Leyland was nationalised in 1975, basically, to save the company from collapse:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryder_Report_(British_Leyland)

After digesting £3-4 billions of support from taxpayers’ money, thinning down the assets and a name change to the Rover Group in 1986, it was privatised in 1988 through a sale to BAE. BAE sold it on to BMW in 1994.

Millions of pounds of investment by BMW failed to turn the company into profit. In 2000, BMW retained Mini production at Cowley Oxford (which continues to flourish), sold Land Rover to Ford and the remainder (mostly at Longbridge) to the Phoenix Consortium as The MG Rover Group.

Can we cut out giving money to lazy farmers. It is no wonder they never have enough to live on, they are always going on demonstrations, and sitting outside petrol refineries.

I mean why should I subsidize pampered, red faced hicks to sit on their half million pound, top of the range tractors?

36. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@30

Is that why the privatisation of rail has been such a success in Blighty, and not at all inefficient or wasteful in delivering the best outcomes for consumers..?

In fairness, the ‘privatised’ railways aren’t market driven, they’re subject to heavy state subsidy (I believe they now get around twice as much than it ever cost to run BR) and targets, if they were legitimately private there probably wouldn’t be any trains actually running, or it’d cost three times as much to use them (even though it already costs around twice as much to travel on the train than it does in Europe) one of the two.

@29

Which is, of course, why we need markets….so that that cream of sensible things can rise to the top.

What could possibly go wrong.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/default.stm

Err, Tim

Err, Will….

It’s Clifford who has decided to highlight all these silly/ridiculous/appalling things that the masses want/believe.

Not me.

Me, I expect all of this, I’m not shocked by it at all. And in there, among all those stupidities, there will be some sensible things to do.

Which is, of course, why we need markets….so that that cream of sensible things can rise to the top.

I was asking for the punchline from Neil.

As for your other points, OK chuck, But I wasn’t addressing them to you – I was trying, and obviously failed, to write like many of the right-wing supporters who go on to a consultation website asking about cuts and then venting their idiotic demands – which would, if we were to look into them deeper (and the fact those morons have a hard time spelling correctly) probably cost the country more money – but they are stupid that way.

But if you want to think I was addressing you for whatever reason – please feel free to do so. ;)

“And in there, among all those stupidities, there will be some sensible things to do.”

http://spendingchallenge.hm-treasury.gov.uk/how-can-we-rethink-public-services-to-deliver-more-for-less/a-windfall-tax-on-tim-worstall

@38.

Laughing My Fucking Arse Off!!!!!!

@ 38…well, we’d pretty soon see how the Laffer Curve works then, won’t we?

Ah, but BenM – they laughed at Galileo too, you know…

I spent a very happy half-hour on there the other day sprinkling the tag “ireaditinthedailymailsoitmustbetrue” about. I didn’t come up with the tag, someone else did and I thought I’d help them out. Now, that’s crowd-sourcing.

More seriously, Dillow nails the real problem with it here:

“So, what’s gone wrong? They’ve asked the wrong question. They should have asked: what do you know? Give us specific, micro-level examples of how public money is wasted. Instead, they seem to be asking: what do you want, or think, or feel?”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/13/public-consultation-cuts

This is exactly what happens when Government decides it wants to run a public engagement exercise on a shoestring.

Note to Osbourne: It’s pointless just about throwing up a website overnight – you need to invest in servers that can handle the capacity and round the clock moderation. You seem to have done neither. Is this what happens when you cap comms spend?

Of course, Tim Smug (Worstall) lives overseas…

47. Chaise Guevara

Robert Webb has some capital suggestions in this area, including “a 90 per cent marginal tax rate for people who earn £1 more than me”:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7821864/New-politics-OK-these-would-be-my-laws.html

Guess what? According to Lansley, our new health minister, there’s a wonderful new opportunity for local authorities opening up from the reorganisation of the NHS:

“Family doctors will be able to use councils to help commission mental health services, the health secretary has said, as local authorities emerged as one of the potential winners from his NHS shake-up.”
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/22174176-8f58-11df-ac5d-00144feab49a.html

Quite how local authorities will rise to this exciting professional challenge while cutting spending budgets and staffing remains to be seen – over the next few years my local council will be cutting its budget by £30 million, according to a recent statement by the council leader.

By occasional media reports, a problem emerges from time to time from potentially dangerous schizophrenic patients, out in the community, who fail to take their prescribed medication and become unpredictably homicidal. Naturally, it’s politically very convenient to be able to blame cash strapped local authorities for whatever eventualities ensue.

Jus thought you’d all like to know in case you missed this in the news.

49. Chaise Guevara

A pro-tip for you, Bob: don’t bother with the link to the FT, as it cuts you off after about one visit a month. Post the title instead and we can get in through the back door (Google).

As luck would have it, you did include a quote, so I got to have a read anyway. Loved this: ““I have faith, perhaps a touching faith, in the ability of people in a locality to get together and work it out.”

Yep, that’s the wonderful Big Society right there.

Folk in retirement, like me, regard the prospects as terrifying.

I count among friends retired professional social workers who are thoroughly familiar with the work of local authority social services departments. A regular problem with social services, even before councils started to cut budgets and staffing, was unfilled vacancies and work overload – as the series of child abuse cases in recent years has shown. Clients with mental health issues who can’t be relied on to take their medication can take up a lot of work time, which means other clients get less attention.

“People with severe mental illness are responsible for one in 20 violent crimes, researchers say.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5216836.stm

“Too many people with mental illnesses are being sent to prison rather than receiving treatment, according to the Prison Reform Trust. The trust says 90% of inmates have at least one diagnosed mental health disorder, and one in ten has a serious mental health issue.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7868330.stm
Btw thanks for the tip.

51. Chaise Guevara

“Folk in retirement, like me, regard the prospects as terrifying.”

Don’t fucking blame you. It’s laissez-faire wearing a tacky, “compassionate conservative” clownsuit. I’m currently thanking god I’m not in the public sector, and worried about a family member who is.

This is one more step towards the wonderful concept of “why have taxes? If people care, they can donate to charities”.

“Btw thanks for the tip.”

It’ll only work for a while, because Google are changing their rules. For now, though, it’ll get you around most paywalls.

52. Matt Munro

“With New Labour, I had the sense that we were being run by a student union. With the wonderful ‘coalition’, it’s worse, much worse…. they’re like schoolchildren taking over a sweet shop. Do the have a clue what they’re actually doing?”

I don’t think they do, yet. It’s like they’ve been given the keys to the kingdom but don’t know where to start. Not many of them have ever been in power before, and even for the ones that have, a lot has changed in 13 years. Like er, the internet has been invented.

“There is also a highly-rated recipe for “Beef and vegetable casserole”, described by one visitor as “the most sensible thing I have read on this site”.”

Love it.

Has anyone noticed how Ed Balls and Nick Griffin look very similar when viewed from a certain angle? Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

54. Marnie Hall

Give child benefit for 2 children, then none for subsequent children. We are already ludicrously overcrowded, this will make people think twice about breeding.

I have been childminding for 20 years and I can tell you it is far too easy for parent’s to commit tax credit fraud. Parents only need certain details from the childminder to claim child care costs over the telephone. My registration number which is on policies, on the compulsory to display registration certificate and Ofsted report…s, parent’s may ask to see on a visit. Parents take away your six digit number and can claim it’s as easy as that. Tax credit’s in my experience do not telephone Childminder’s to find out what children are on their books. Another way parent’s commit fraud is by using the childminder for a couple of hours a week on a short term (up to 28 day contract) get all their details written down then telephone tax credits stating they are using childcare permantely for more hours and paying out more money than what they are.

To save the Government money an electronic payment system should be put in place to pay childcare providers directly.

56. peter sides

the goverment are subsizing the Solar energy push – good for them.
but
Why not simply change the building regulations – like you did for the disabled -
so that every new building in britain, be it house,office,shop or factory has to have a south facing room and a solar system capable of supplying its heating, lighting and domestic power.
new builds would not have the subsidy.

it would cost the goverment not 1penny but instantly acheive thier greenhouse gasses reduction objectives.

I,ve worked at design level in the building industry all my life and such regulation changes are quickly absorbed with little pain to the industry.

Simples.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  48. I am going to explode… « L'Anglais à Paris

    [...] ‘The government’s Spending Challenge website, launched last week on Friday, invites us to send our ideas for cuts. “A team has been put together right at the heart of government,” claims the blurb on the homepage, “and their job is to make sure that your ideas and comments are taken seriously.” Which is deeply worrying, because for the most part the contributors to Spending Challenge give the impression that they have moved there directly from the Daily Express comments board. Many entries have little bearing on government doing “more for less” and instead reflect personal hobby-horses, like the ubiquitous “Bring Back Capital Punishment”.’ More here… [...]

  49. Phil Evans

    It seems the Spending Challenge website is even more of a car crash than the Your Freedoms one: http://bit.ly/asap5u

  50. Going Deeper into Crowd-sourcing and eDemocracy with Bristol Council « EVANSFINCH

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    [...] was only on the 14th that Clifford Singer had exposed us to the joys of what was being published on the [...]

  52. UK government Spending Challenge – the saga continues « HelpGov's helpful blog

    [...] the wall stuff, web | Leave a Comment  Both this week’s Municipal Journal and the polemical Liberal Conspiracy web site have thrown more light on the Treasury’s Spending Challenge– see my various posts on [...]

  53. Lauren G

    Old news but I only just found it: UK suggestions for govt spending cuts include 'tax Steve' and a casserole recipe http://is.gd/dDXv8

  54. The Moral Liberal

    Government as Consumer…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  55. NORBET

    Government’s Spending Challenge website now offers you comedy gold | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/SesdFJP via @libcon

  56. Dominic Campbell

    Apparently it was "activists taking the piss" that was the problem. Right… http://t.co/CYEUZ7ko #gov20





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