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British Withdrawal (as a money saving device)

Mark Devenport | 09:15 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010

Back in July the Treasury asked members of the public to submit any ideas they had for saving money and closing the UK budget deficit. Last night the Treasury invited people to vote on the 44,000 proposals they have received so far. Cynics may see this as part of a PR strategy to make the notion of cuts more palatable. The Treasury, however, is promising it will review the ideas to see if any of them can be taken further in the Comprehensive Spending Review in October.

The website makes it clear that the Treasury is not able to act on spending decisions made by the devolved administrations or local authorities. But that disclaimer hasn't stopped the public proposing efficiencies in those areas.

Searching through the ideas using the key words "Northern Ireland" I came across a wide range of proposals from the radical to the specific, from the tongue in cheek to the serious.

Some suggest the UK should "get rid of Northern Ireland" (one idea is that Liverpool could be thrown in for good measure). There's also a fair bit of concern about the Barnett formula with, presumably, English people calling for an equalisation in the per capita government spend across the UK.

On a similar macro level there are calls for the merger of the Northern Ireland Office with the Scottish and Welsh office, a reduction in the number of MPs from the devolved regions and a drastic cut in the number of MLAs at Stormont. Some also support the introduction of regional salaries with lower wages in an area like Northern Ireland than are paid in London.

Some ideas are much more specific - often the ruminations of people working within particular departments or agencies. So we have calls for an improved command structure and IT system at the NI Fire and Rescue Service, the merger of the two driver and vehicle licensing agencies, the DVLA and the DVANI, reductions in the amount of mileage paid to NI Water staff, changes to the management of rivers here, and a call for Newtownabbey council to reduce its spending.

Then there are reactions to items in the news - such as a demand that no money should be given to refurbishing the local soccer, rugby and GAA stadiums or a call for anyone convicted of rioting to have their benefits cut.

Finally I was struck by this one from a 30 year old mother living locally who says "to be honest I have never had any interest in politics as I have grown up in a country where my local government is more concerned about parading down roads or trying to implement the Irish language!! I am concerned however about my future and of that of my 12 week old baby."

After complaining about benefits for teenage mums, foreign wars and public service overtime she continues "I am not political or religious but the Stormont Executive is the biggest waste of time and money", and concludes, with rather dodgy spelling "P.S I sympathise with the new governement. The have inheritated a complete mess!!!"


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