Gordon Brown may delay the roll-out of ID cards until after the next general election, analysts have predicted.
James Hall, head of the Identity and Passport Service has admitted that the ID card procurement has been held up, saying: “We’re not quite ready.” His remarks came as Brown prepares to enter Number 10 as prime minister.
Eric Woods, government practice leader at analyst firm Ovum said a Brown government would not back away from the programme, but added: “The rollout still offers a political and electoral risk that the new prime minister may be wary of taking.”
Woods said the “more pragmatic approach” to the controversial project outlined by the government at the end of last year - when it abandoned plans for a huge new database to hold the national identity register in favour of adapting existing systems – and Sir James Crosby's forthcoming report on identity management across public and private sectors could broaden the debate on identity management.
A wider and more pragmatic approach could “deflate the stand-off” between supporters and opponents of the ID scheme, Wood said.
He added: “This may allow a start on procurement and the development process for the core infrastructure, while modifying the timetable for the rollout of ID Cards to the UK public until after an election.”
Wood said there was “little reason to expect significant changes” to other major IT projects in the pipeline.
A Brown government might put greater emphasis on shared services – a key feature of the Transformational Government strategy launched by the Cabinet Office in November 2005, Wood suggested.
“The current pragmatic pace may be the best approach, but further impetus will be needed if benefits are to be shown more quickly. So it's possible, if not likely, that we will see attempts to speed up change via more direct intervention in both local and central government plans for shared services.”
Wood also urged the incoming prime minister to make support and investment available to maintain and fully exploit legacy government IT systems, which he described as “a valuable (and much enhanced) asset”. This should go alongside reducing legacy system management costs, as recommended by the strategic supply board, he said.