With the Government desperate to find another €3 billion worth of “savings” in the December budget, ministers are watching with interest a new British initiative to get public involvement in fiscal belt- tightening via the internet.
David Cameron’s Liberal-Conservative administration has struck a ground- breaking deal with Facebook to encourage ideas from voters on where to cut state spending.
Online users can register their ideas at Facebook’s “spending challenge channel” and British cabinet ministers plan to organise “road shows” to discuss cuts on foot of the initiative.
The Finance Department here is following the project, but no immediate move to imitate it is planned.
“We are aware of what the British Treasury is doing.
“It could become the minister’s pet project, but we have no plans to follow suit at the moment — but you can never rule anything out,” a spokesman for Brian Lenihan said.
Labour’s finance spokes- woman, Joan Burton, urged the Government to embrace the idea: “It would certainly get more people engaged in the political process and a lot of people out there have a good hands on knowledge of how things work and would be able to suggest where to get rid of things like top heavy administration so money can be diverted to frontline services and away from red tape.
“This Government is so clueless when it comes to the economy any outside help would be welcome.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Facebook initiative would help target cuts away from the vulnerable.
“We are really excited about having Facebook involved in the spending challenge. There’s enormous civic spirit where people want to take control and do things in a different way. We are giving people an opportunity with Facebook and I am sure that they will take it,” he said.
Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg said: “It’s really innovative to open up policy making and engage the public in this way to try and create more social change.”
The move is part of a wider British government consultation process which has seen more than 60,000 responses in the past three weeks on how public services can save money, including ideas like merging back-office services for public sector organisations, renegotiating government IT contracts, and switching off office computers over the weekend.