Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling had precious little for IT professionals or the IT industry in his first budget.
While promising that the UK would avoid recession in the coming 12 months, the chancellor said economic growth would slow from 3 percent last year to 1.75 to 2.25 percent this year.
• £60 million to be spent over the next five years for equipping people for the workplace, including additional apprenticeships.
• By 2010 the government will spend over £6 billion on supporting science and innovation, including the building of a national science innovation centre.
Biometrics • New measures at Heathrow and other airports to speed up the time taken to get through immigration control, using biometric technology.
• "The action we took last Autumn to protect Northern Rock mean that, despite seeing the worst period of financial disruption in years, we have maintained confidence in the banking system," said Darling.
Environment • To allow businesses that invest in technologies to reduce energy and water consumption, to write off 100 percent of the cost against the taxable profits of the period.
• From April 2010, no car tax will be paid in the first year on cars that emit less than 130 grams per kilometre of CO2, with a higher first-year rate for the most polluting cars.
• The Chancellor set aside new funding to develop technology that could underpin a national road-pricing system and inviting tenders to test the system, with the results expected next year.
Business • High-tech manufacturing in the UK has grown by 30 percent in the last decade.
• Spending on government departments "must be matched by reform".
• The next decade's focus for the NHS will be creating "world-class services".
For IT departments this is likely to result in tightening budgets and an increased emphasis on demonstrating short term return on investment on IT projects.
The Chancellor talked about investment in Britain’s transport infrastructure, but, investment in digital infrastructure of UK was noticeably absent from chancellor’s statement.
Darling did announce the first steps in what could become new major public sector IT infrastructure projects, when he said he would be issuing tenders for trials of road pricing technology and extending the use of biometric technology at UK airports.
He also announced plans to get 30 percent of public sector contracts delivered by small and medium sized enterprises.
This could have a marked impact on public sector IT suppliers and will require fundamental change to IT procurement in the public sector, which has been dominated by multinational companies that are able to invest millions of pounds in preparing bids.
The chancellor launched a Public Value Programme, which will look at the way major public sector IT projects are run and accounted for.
"Major improvements in value for money depend not only on a firm discipline on back-office costs, but also on a continual effort to find smarter ways of doing business and in taking wider policy decisions,” the statement which accompanies the budget noted.
IT was noticeably absent from the chancellor’s green remarks, which focused on transport. Darling did however announce plans to extend the use of smart metering by businesses, which could make it easier for IT departments to monitor their use of power.
In the statement which accompanied the budget Darling promised to drive up standards in sustainable procurement for public sector buyers, and said the government will shortly set out plans to make the Government’s use of IT more sustainable.
The chancellor also announced a range of new education measures, but again IT skills were absent from the mix.
Darling pledged a further £200 million to be invested in schools, and £60m additional spending over next five years for equipping people for the workplace, including additional apprenticeships.
By 2010 the government will spend more that £6bn on supporting science and innovation, with the Chancellor announcing plans to build a national science innovation centre.
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