The UK government spent £45,637 printing copies of the 600-page Withdrawal Agreement it now has to renegotiate – but did our political masters get their money's worth? Trust El Reg's readers to do the maths.
In response to a Freedom of Information request from the Beeb, the government said it had ordered 1,300 copies of the document, sending out 1,100 to MPs and peers. Others reportedly remain uncollected in a Parliamentary office.
Although many may wonder what the point of printing out so many hard copies was, the burning question for IT geeks is, apparently, whether the government got a good deal on doing so.
Thankfully, reader Matthew Shipp was on hand with some fairly sophisticated back-of-the-envelope maths.
First, he chose the printer: a Ricoh MP C5504. "I've no idea if this is a reliable model, but it has B&W capacity at low cost," he said, noting it works at a rate of 60 pages per minute and has a black-and-white toner capacity of 18,000 pages.
The cost of hiring this for a month is £100, and – assuming that price doesn't include toner – the toner cost is £80.75 per cartridge. Shipp estimated paper costs at £3.25 per 500 pages, and binding of £4 a pack.
Next up is the challenge: the government needs 1,300 packs at 600 pages each, a total of 780,000 pages in one week, which is 168 hours, assuming the printing needed to be done inside that timescale. At 60 pages per minute, one printer running 24/7 non-stop would knock the job out in 217 hours.
Two printers, therefore, should get the work done comfortably within a week. As all good techies know, it's important to build in some redundancy, so we'll opt for three, with two running at any one time. They'll need 44 toner cartridges between them, but let's round that up to 50 just in case. Thus, in all...
Printer hire cost: £100 * 3 = £300 for the month
Cartridge Cost: (50 * £80.75) = £4,037.5
Paper Cost: (1300 * 600) / 500 * £3.25 = £5,070
Binding Cost: 1300 * £4 = £5,200
But the Beeb says the government spent £45,637 on printing – so what happened to the rest of the cash, all £31,000-odd of it?
Staff, perhaps? People will be needed to run the batch and be on hand to keep things ticking over. Shipp decided to go for a minimum wage staffer, on the basis that watching printers can't be too skilled a job.
Min Wage Apprentice: £3.70
Min Wage U18: £4.20
Min Wage 18-20: £5.90
Min Wage 21-24: £7.38
Min Wage 25+: £7.83
It should be possible to complete this over 108 hours with just two printers running, but let's make that 110 hours for set up time. Even taking the highest pay bracket, the bill should be less than a grand split over several shifts. Add a couple more printers, and you get fewer shifts, and a shorter run time, albeit more spent on printer rental.
Our man suggests that the spare cash, roughly thirty grand, may have gone on expenses, while here at Vulture Central we reckon there needs to be some consultancy costs or outsourcing factored in – but we're sure the rest of you will wade in below. ®