The Prime Minister wants to carry out spending cuts (“deficit reduction”) in a way that “strengthens and unites the country” while the Treasury team promise to give the public a role in the process online and through public meetings. This could dramatically change the way Britain is run, so before the suggestion is smothered by cynicism, stifled by official caution or trampled on by the tough old boots of political realism, let’s encourage the Coalition to be bold and trust people to see the power struggles between the Treasury and spending departments.
So I have three suggestions:
- let cameras into the Star Chamber: it would make riveting viewing and transform people’s understanding of politics.
- allow MPs to discuss the plans and budgets for each Department, through Select Committees and a substantial debate in the Commons Chamber
- encourage schools, colleges, local media and civil society associations of all kinds to involve people in the budget process.
Such breath-taking radicalism would show that people really are being offered an “invitation to take part in the Government of Britain.”
The British Government was top of the league for financial transparency in 2008, according to the Open Budget Initiative, but may be over taken by President Obama’s commitment to “transparency, public participation, and collaboration”, while the US Congress subjects Departmental budgets to more detailed scrutiny than the UK Parliament.