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Westminster Column 7 July 2010

The biggest challenge our country faces is dealing with the record debts left to us after more than a decade of Labour's irresponsibility.

At the Emergency Budget two weeks ago, George Osborne outlined the Government’s plans to deal decisively with Labour's debts and as we now know, these plans must involve significant reductions in departmental spending.

As part of the Spending Review that will take place this summer the Government is setting up a public engagement process – the Spending Challenge – which aims to build public understanding of the difficult decisions that have to be taken and to generate ideas as to how savings can be realised.

In this respect I want to invite as many people as possible in Sutton and the surrounding area to get involved in this process. Every suggestion put forward will be scrutinised.

The Spending Challenge has two phases. Last month, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister launched the first phase: a government-wide engagement programme through which we’re asking our six million public sector workers to share their ideas on how to save money and deliver more for less. It is the people who are working at the frontline of our public services who know what works well, where there is waste and what we can do to get better services for less money.

Every serious idea is being considered. Number 10 and the Cabinet Office are responsible for the first screening, proposals are then passed to the relevant government departments and the Treasury. The Public Accounts Committee will also have a chance to examine the responses.

This first public sector phase closed yesterday on Thursday 8 July and at the time of writing this column there had already been over 50,000 responses received – many of these were of an extremely high quality.

As of today (Friday 9 July) the second phase of the Spending Challenge begins and will involve a wider public consultation to which everyone can contribute.

I hope that readers of the Observer will get involved in this process. If you wish to find out more or to submit your ideas please visit www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spendingchallenge.

The Spending Challenge is your chance to shape the way government works, and help us get more for less as we try to bring down the deficit.

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