Britain Government

Outrage Over £30,000 Government 'Extortionate' and 'Basic' Website

13:57Ciaran McCormick

A written question by Green MP Caroline Lucas has exposed the absurd costs of new government websites. She asked the Secretary of State for Business, Skills and Innovation Nick Boles how much has been spent on the new site to promote the Living Wage. In his answer, he describes how www.livingwage.gov.uk cost £21,860 to build and £7,000 to promote. We must avoid a kneejerk backlash to this, since running the country does entail some necessary costs. However, this is clearly an excessive amount.



The website is basic with just a little text information, some FAQs and very little in the way of interesting or innovative design. It models the standard format of official government websites and should only have cost a fraction of this amount. Indeed, the Minister said that the role of the new page is to ensure that businesses have all of the information they need before they are required to pay employees the living wage. Nonetheless, the costs of the site did not even include search engine optimisation, which would make sure that it would stay at the top of rankings of searches for the living wage.


The reason this has raised eyebrows is not solely the fault of the website. It stems from the inadequacies of the government's new living wage. The Living Wage Foundation, which independenly recommends the salary required by people to achieve a basic standard of living in the UK. Their figure is £8.25 an hour or £9.40 in London. This means that the government proposal of £7.20 falls well short. It is only available to people over the age of 25 because the government knows that young people don't vote for them in sufficient numbers to justify paying them enough to live. This means that paying outrageous amounts of money on this website is irritating for people that will not receive a sufficient salary to cover basic living costs.



Shadow Business Minister Kevin Brennan commented: “The cost of this basic website is extortionate and quite frankly it’s a waste of taxpayers’ hard earned money. The Tories are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, but no amount of cash spent on spin will hide the fact that the Tories’ so-called living wage is not a living wage at all.”

In the context of other Tory reforms, it shows that the inner workings of Parliament need to be scrutinised to expose their damaging effects. Recently, 18 MPs on the legislative committee considering student funding abolished essential student maintenance grants, implementing George Osborne's plans. A Labour amendment to the Housing Bill that tried to make sure that rented homes were of a 'liveable' standard were voted down by 312 votes to 219. As 39% of Conservative MPs are landlords, it raised some concerns that they were voting largely in the interests of wealthy property owners rather than more vulnerable renters. Overall, the recent trend of government policy means that £30,000 on a substandard website is an affront to the concerns and interests of ordinary people.

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