The government cannot give a reliable estimate of the costs of its controversial ID card scheme.
It has published figures its latest six monthly report to parliament which shows an estimated cost of £5.43bn to provide ID cards to UK and Irish nationals for the 10 years to October 2017, with another £182m for other foreign nationals taking the total to more than £5.6bn.
But the government said, there is “a significant probability” that cost figures for the scheme will change in future.
The six-monthly reports each provide a 10-year estimate for costs of the ID card programme – but with rolling start and end-point dates. The estimate for the 10 years to October 2017 is slightly lower than the £5.55bn figure for UK and Irish nationals’ ID cards provided by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in May for the 10 years to April 2017.
But the report admits the estimates “reflect the estimated outcome of a number of competitive tendering processes, the first of which has only recently commenced,” the report says. The IPS announced a shortlist of eight bidders for the National Identity Scheme framework agreements last month – but it is still unclear whether key elements of the new system, such as the production of ID cards, will be included in the scope of the final contracts.
The new cost estimates also reflect “a number of key assumptions around the number of applications for passports and/or identity cards, the operation of the enrollment processes, and achievable levels of staff productivity, all of which may well change in the light of more detailed work and practical experience”, the new report adds.
The Liberal Democrats hit out at the uncertainty over the costs of the scheme, saying it was “time to scrap” the scheme.
"It is becoming more and more clear that identity cards are going to be a vast waste of taxpayers’ money. The fact that the cost keeps changing shows how loose a grip the government has got on the finances of this ill-judged scheme,” Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Nick Clegg said.
The new IPS report also provides a retrospective downwards adjustment to the figure for the 10 years to April 2017, putting this at £5.365bn - £185m less than previously stated. The adjustment was due to “customers delaying passport renewals” and a “reduction in the assumed unit based cost” of producing and delivering passports and identity cards with fingerprints, the IPS said.
IPS chief executive James Hall also announced that the agency was working on plans to capture fingerprints for ID cards and biometric passports at Post Office branches and travel agents, in addition to 70 new ID card offices.