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Treasury loony-magnet voting starts

Privatise the hunt for Raoul Moat?

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The Treasury's Spending Challenge website now allows the public to vote on savings ideas - from the thousands suggested by members of the public.

There are 44,000 ideas on the site and you can register and vote on them until 31 August.

A Treasury spokeswoman said that the 63,000 responses collected confidentially from civil servants as part of a previous process were being considered separately by the relevant departments.

The number of ideas, organised by tags, makes using the site a challenge. But a brief wander around the site shows some areas attracting a lot of interest, even if not all of them are actually going to save money.

So amongst suggestions tagged with "benefits" is one to have a police officer posted at every benefits office as "a visible deterrent" - that's received 183 votes but has a 2.2 star rating, out of five.

There are calls to maintain disability payments, to push half of all freight onto rail neither of which are strictly spending cuts.

Some tags are so large as to be all but useless - there are 5982 ideas tagged "central government' which means the top rated idea - "Stop ministers in government having expensive lunches" has 29 votes, all with five stars.

Rather more old school is a call to return to proper state socialism. Poster "CostCutter" suggests modestly:

"Choose an industry to nationalise: the choice is beyond my area of expertise

Nationalise it

Make all UK citizens shareholders

Use profits to fund government spending"

Even older school is a call to connect prison exercise bikes, rowing machines and treadmills up to the National Grid to provide electricity - that idea currently has 87 votes and a 4.4 rating.

Out of 735 suggestions tagged with "benefits", the top three - with 309, 443 and 165 votes - demand an end to paying benefits to those living abroad.

The site does warn that there may still be offensive suggestions on the unmoderated site and asks users to flag up any that they find. But you can still vote on "Privatise the hunt for Raoul Moat".

This suggests a £10,000 reward, doubling each week and allowing soldiers to borrow guns and ammo to help in the hunt. So far it's received two votes and the top five star rating.

In amongst the Wiki-loons there are undoubtedly some good ideas; but whether they emerge from this process, and whether the government implements any or just uses them to window-dress the Spending Review in October, remains to be seen.

The coalition's other Wiki-policy site Your Freedom is still open.

Earlier this month the government rejected every proposal made through its Programme for Government website.

The Treasury team is using Twitter.com/hmtspending to provide updated user information. At the time of writing the site is claiming 26,833 users who have rated 45,406 ideas giving a total of 123,269 ratings.®

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