Yet another effort by the Government to "go commercial" is failing. £10m was spent on an internet accommodation service which produced just over 400 hotel bookings this summer, reports the Telegraph. What a surprise. When I book a holiday, the first place I think of looking is the website of the national government.
Government should provide for its citizens only those things that they need (not want) and that are not provided by the market. I hadn't noticed a shortage of travel websites, had you?
Apparently, the excuse for the low level of bookings is that the site had only recently gone live. But work began on the site in 2002, so what sort of excuse is that? Either the site is a commercial flop, or it is yet another government IT fiasco. Probably both.
The Government has no business providing commercial services like this. It undermines those businesses that would wish to provide this sort of service on a commercial basis. And it wastes taxpayers' money doing something the market would have provided them for free (in fact, at a profit, which would have paid taxes rather than costing money).
This is all part of the syndrome we are suffering, where politicians (and many commentators and naive members of the public) seem to think that the government can intervene in anything to improve matters, despite the abundant evidence to the contrary - that wherever they intervene, they make things worse and cost money. Remember Ronald Reagan's warning about the most frightening words in the English language: "we're from the government, and we're here to help you".
What a splendid loser. Not even a hint of a winner in this case. Apart, perhaps, from the IT company that has received £10m of our money to produce a product no one wants over a timescale no one can believe.