Ministers turn to Facebook users for cuts suggestions

image captionFacebook will host a page for people to suggest cuts

The government has announced a tie-up with the Facebook website as it seeks new ideas on spending cuts.

The social networking site says it has 23 million members in the UK and has agreed to ask them to submit and vote on ideas for where cuts can be made.

A website set up to ask public sector staff to suggest cuts was called an "outrage" by a union, but ministers say 50,000 ideas have been sent in.

Chancellor George Osborne is to meet some of those who put ideas forward.

The Facebook "Spending Challenge Channel" is an expansion of the social networking website's "Democracy UK" pages, set up during the run-up to the general election.

'Primary channel'

Earlier this week Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about a partnership deal.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said the prime minister had been dismissive of social networking websites in the past. But the government now says Facebook will be its "primary channel" for communicating with the public about spending cuts, as it seeks to tackle the UK's record deficit.

The website will have a page for people to debate spending priorities and will allow people to submit and vote for ideas on where cuts could be made.

The government says the "most serious ideas will be taken forward by officials in the Treasury and other government departments". It says it wants to use new technology to "crowd source" and get people involved in making policy.

In the Budget Mr Osborne announced real terms cuts across all government departments of 25% over four years - except health and foreign aid which are ring-fenced.


As part of the spending review process, ministers are asking public sector workers to suggest services they believe are non-essential, how services can be better targeted or provided more effectively by private and voluntary groups.

Later Mr Osborne is to meet public sector workers who have put forward ideas for cuts on a different website launched last month.

At the time David Cameron asked staff to help find "fair" cuts. But the move was condemned by GMB union chief Paul Kenny, who said it was an "outrage" to ask public workers to "co-operate in sacking thousands of them".

And Labour say proposed 25% average cuts in departmental budgets, which will be determined in an spending review in October, are reckless and will hurt vital services.

The party says the cuts are based on an ideological desire to reduce the scope of the state, rather than sound economic reasons.

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