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Labour manifesto's IT pledges

Labour manifesto's IT pledges

A triumph of hope over experience?

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Labour repeatedly highlighted the importance of IT in its election manifesto, which was launched today, but made few new IT-related promises.

It reiterated plans to make "hundreds of millions of pounds" worth of cuts to the NHS National Programme for IT.

The manifestos stated, "We will scale down the NHS IT programme, saving hundreds of millions of pounds, and over the next four years, we will deliver up to £20 billion of efficiencies in the frontline NHS."

The £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT hit major contractual problems in recent weeks.

Labour also had little new to say on the controversial biometric ID cards scheme. It reiterated that the card would not be compulsory for British citizens and promised that in the next parliament, ID cards and the ID scheme will be "self-financing".

"The price of the passport and ID cards together with savings from reduced fraud across the public services will fully cover the costs of the scheme," Labour wrote.

Meanwhile, the party plans to make cuts in police force IT, which it said would help to sustain the funding of police officers for the next three years.

"To protect the front line, we are making tough choices elsewhere: continuing to cut bureaucracy and efficiency in procurement, IT and overtime," Labour said.

The pledges are part of Labour’s plans to "halve the deficit" over the next four years. It intends to make a range of savings, including £15 billion efficiency savings in 2010-11, and £11 billion of further operational efficiencies to streamline the government by 2012-13. The party also said that it had already identified £5 billion in cuts to lower priority spending.

Despite the cuts in IT, Labour still aims to invest in "broadband Britain", the commitment the government set out in the Digital Britain report to enable every household in Britain to have access to broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second by 2012.

It also said it would invest over £1 billion over the next seven years making superfast broadband available, working with private operators. Labour said that this scheme would be paid for by the reintroduction of its planned "modest" (50 pence) levy on fixed telephone lines.

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