LONDON – Sell off the Queen’s swans. Make lawmakers work for free. Force prison inmates to generate cheap power on the treadmill.

As Britain’s government decides how to make the toughest spending cuts in decades, it has asked the public for help. The result? A list of wild ideas on how to save money — proposals that Treasury chief George Osborne insists will be seriously considered as he draws up a five-year austerity plan.

Osborne wants to save 30 billion pounds per year ($44 billion) to quickly reduce Britain’s huge national debts, racked up as the previous government bailed out banks and launched stimulus programs during the global financial crisis.

Ministers have already announced a slew of cuts — axing 700 new schools, halting payments to pregnant women to fund healthier diets and scrapping $15 billion worth of projects agreed to under ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But the country’s Conservative-led coalition government says it needs help to meet its ambitious target, not least because Osborne intends to balance Britain’s books almost exclusively by cutting costs, not raising taxes.

More than 45,000 ideas for savings have been posted on the Treasury’s website by members of the public and government workers. They range from the deliberately extreme, such as scrapping Britain’s monarchy, to the seemingly sensible, such as having staff book hotels online, not through expensive travel brokers.

Among edgier ideas are plans to put Britain’s population of almost 100,000 prisoners to work.

One suggestions calls for convicts to cook meals for public hospitals or government-run care homes for the elderly. A wackier plan demands treadmills and rowing machines in prison gyms to be adapted to produce power for the national power grid.

One submission suggested asking the queen to sell off her swans for meat. Under ancient laws, the queen owns most swans in Britain, and the bird was once a favored dish among the country’s aristocracy.


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