The current British administration is set on repealing all unnecessary governmental regulations. To do this, the Prime Minister recently launched the Red Tape Challenge, a crowdsourcing website that invites citizens to comment on which regulations are necessary, which should be cut, and even which should be amended to be more effective. The administration hopes that cutting regulations will give small businesses an economic boost and increase social responsibility by making it easier for people to volunteer in their communities.
Organized into sectors such as “employment,” “health and safety,” “equalities,” and “environment,” the website will solicit comments on all 21,000 regulations over the next two years (The only sectors not included are taxes and national security). Specific sectors and their corresponding regulations will be online for a limited amount of time, during which citizens are free to leave extensive comments. Once the commenting period closes, the Cabinet Ministers have three months to review the feedback and decide which regulations will be cut and which will stay. According to the website, “The default presumption will be that burdensome regulations will go. If Ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay.”
Not everybody is happy about widespread deregulation. Activist groups are afraid that regulations that protect the environment are at risk of being repealed, especially since skepticism about climate change is growing in the country. On March 19th in Cambridge, scientists and others who doubt the existence of global warming trends formed a group to “Repeal the Climate Change Act.” An ambitious governmental initiative, the Climate Change Act aims to reduce carbon emissions in the UK by 80% by 2050.
Additionally, environmentalists have reason to be concerned that business owners will recommend cutting green regulations to improve their bottom lines. A business department spokesman told the Guardian, “We’ve got to look at things from both sides. Yes, there’s the environmental side, but businesses have to deal with these regulations on a daily basis and it takes a lot to grow a business.”
As the Red Tape Challenge invites comments on more sectors, it is likely that this is only the first of many conflicts between concerned parties and activist groups. Regardless of what regulations ultimately get cut, the Red Tape Challenge has the potential to be an effective channel for citizens to articulate what they want. Should all politicians launch similar crowdsourcing websites in order to better represent their constituency? Should citizens be invited to comment on bills before they are submitted to congress? Or, are such governmental crowdsourcing projects unrealistic in scope? Can politicians really consider the opinions of an entire populace?