I’ve touched before on the UK government’s spending challenge, their dialogue which invites citizen turkeys to vote for how they would prefer to be dispatched for Christmas – roast or microwaved, stuffed with chestnuts or sage & onion, basted with oil or butter.

I exaggerate of course.  The exercise was an attempt to seek people’s ideas on how to save money in the forthcoming spending cuts.

I last posted about this on 13 August, when I said Watch this space as HM Treasury prepared to knock the 40,000+ suggestions into some sort of shape and get the public to vote on them.

Well, I took my eye off that particular ball while other stuff (it’s called work) intervened.

Now the Spending challenge web site is back up with the results of the vote.

They offer a fascinating insight into both the imperfections of the exercise and the recesses of my fellow citizens’ minds (or at least those that take part in this sort of thing).

Order has been given to the suggestions by classifying them into 18 categories, with the number of suggestions made listed against each:

  • 6227 – Civil service
  • 5975 – Central government
  • 4192 – Local government
  • 3633 – Health
  • 2416 – Education
  • 1926 – Defence
  • 1609 – Police
  • 1282 – Quangoes
  • 733   – Benefits
  • 639   – Private sector
  • 561   –  Charities
  • 474   – Tax
  • 449   – NHS
  • 401   – Gem (no, I haven’t got a clue what it means either)
  • 378   – Bureaucracy
  • 332   – Transport
  • 122   – Prison
  • 99     – EU.

Each category then includes lists of suggestions by (1) the number of votes the most popular suggestions got and (2) the highest rated suggestions (1 – 5 stars) regardless of the number of votes.

The exercise must have been done with either some sort of software and/or an imperfect human intervention

  • the most popular suggestions listed under Civil service and Central government are exactly the same
  • apart from that overlap, some suggestions appear in more than one category
  • the odd rogue proposal is still there, like the brilliant suggestion that monocoles be prescribed by the national health service for people with a problem in one eye only, not only saving money but also reintroducing a certain style from a bygone era.

The ten most popular individual ideas (my summaries) are

  1. migrants should work for at least 12 months in the UK pay tax before they are entitled to claim any benefit
  2. the London-Birmingham high speed rail plan should be reconsidered
  3. foreign road hauliers should be charged a rate for every mile travelled on UK roads
  4. reduce foreign aid
  5. rather than make DWP civil servants redundant and using credit agencies to identify benefit cheats, redeploy them into a department charged with identifying fraud
  6. scrap Trident or any other similar weapon
  7. reduce the burden of health and safety legislation
  8. adopt the system used in the Middle East for newcomers of compulsory medical tests and having a job, health insurance and enough money to support themselves
  9. do not go down the route of parents running schools
  10. raise money, reduce landfill, protect the environment.

Some of these suggestions have more than a whiff of organised voting about them.  And some sound more like hobby horses than attempts to save money.

Even so, it’s interesting to see what people came up with given the chance.

Of course as with other things in life size isn’t everything and it may be that some truly brilliant stuff lurks in suggestions that hardly anyone voted for (like the heartfelt minority – me included – that proposed wider use of lean or systems thinking throughout government).

And with the Conservatives the larger partner in government, it’s salutary to see how few people had any suggestions about the EU, and one of those – hugely practical of course for short term savings – was no more than “Leave it”.

So now we grit our teeth and wait for the pain of the autumn budget.

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