29 things that cost less than government IT

Wales (£16 billion per year)

Apple’s Irish tax bill (£11 billion)

Covering the Vatican City with blocks of Cathedral City cheddar to a depth of five metres (£15 billion)*

Premier League transfer spending over last 5 years (£4 billion, gross spend)

Spies (£3 billion per year)

The European Union (£8.5 billion, UK’s net contribution in 2015)

UK science budget to 2020 (£4.7 billion)

The police (£12–13 billion per year)

70 Airbus A380s (£16 billion, at £230 million a go)

NASA (£14.5 billion, 2016 budget)

Highway maintanence for the next 5 years (£7 billion)

Flood and coastal defences for the next 5 years (£2.3 billion)

Winter fuel allowance (£2–3 billion, per year)

The 2012 Olympics (£8.8 billion)

Prohibiting drugs (£16 billion)

Refurbishing the Houses of Parliament (£7 billion)

Public sector sick pay (£4.5 billion)

Job seeker’s allowance (£5 billion per year)

Northern Ireland (£11 billion per year)

The BBC (£5 billion per year)

32 — 160 new hospitals (£16 billion, at £100-500 million a go)

The combined cost of the 100 most expensive films of all time (£14.5 billion)

Disability Living Allowance (£13 billion per year)

20 Millennium Domes (£16 billion, at £800m a go)

3.2 million personal appearances from Keith Chegwin (£16 billion, at 5 grand a go)

Peak UK oil and gas revenues (£12.5 billion, in 2008/09)

375 years of the Royal Family (£15 billion, at £40m per year)

UK foreign aid spending (£12.2 billion per year)

A weekly shave on Harringay Green Lanes for every man in the UK for a year (£16 billion; £10 a week for 31 million men)

If anyone wants to turn this into an infographic, I’d be delighted.



Working out how much the UK government spends on IT is harder than working out how much cheese is required to smother a nation.

In 2011, the Treasury made an estimate for central government IT spending of 16 billion pounds. The original report including that figure has disappeared, but it is quoted by the Institute for Government. A lot has happened since then. There’s a good chance that spending has been reduced, but I can’t find more up to date figures.

*This one took quite a while. A block of Cathedral City is about 3 quid. For £15 billion you’ll get 5 billion blocks. Each block is about 8 by 15 centimetres, or 0.012 square metres. Your 5 billion blocks is 60 million square metres, or 60 square kilometres. The Vatican is 0.44 square kilometres, so you can stack 136 layers of cheese on the Papal State. The thickness of each block is about four centimetres. Multiply four by 136, and call it a depth of around five metres.

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