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Darling announces cuts in scope of major IT projects

The Chancellor Alistair Darling has announced a "cutting back on the scope of major IT projects" in his pre-budget statement to the House of Commons this afternoon.

He made no specific announcements on what projects would be cut or by how much, though the Health Secretary Andy Burnham has told the House of Commons this week that £600m will be shaved from the National Programme for IT [NPfIT] by cutting internal costs and reducing the scope of central contracts with local service providers CSC and BT.

In his reply to Darling today, the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne accused the government of wasting £4bn on the NHS IT scheme - which is the money spent so far of the total budget of £12.7bn.

Darling went on to say that the Government has already announced plans for savings of £12bn a year by 2013/14. This will be achieved, he said, by "abolishing quangos, cutting consultancy and marketing costs, improving procurement and streamlining back-office functions".

He added: "We will sell those assets that can be managed better by the private sector."

He said that the government has "begun a root and branch review to examine every area of government spending to drive through efficiency, cut waste and cut lower priority budgets."

As a result he is today announcing "£5bn of savings from spending programmes, including phasing-in the roll-out of pension personal accounts and cutting back on the scope of major IT projects".

Current spending on public services in general will "grow by an average of 0.7 per cent in real terms between 2011-12 and 2013-14".

Darling also spoke of "modernising the UK's digital infrastructure" which he said would create "thousands more skilled jobs".

He continued: "We have provided funding to help extend the opportunities of the broadband network to more remote communities. We now want to go further, so we can provide the next generation of super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of the population by the end of 2017. This will be funded through a duty of 50 pence a month on landlines which will be included in the Finance Bill."

Darling also wants to "break down informal barriers which close off some careers to undergraduates from poorer backgrounds".

He said he is announcing "financial support for up to 10,000 undergraduates from low-income backgrounds to take up short internships in industry, business and the professions". This will give them a taste of careers which they may not otherwise have considered. Details will be announced shortly, he said.

Darling's speech in full


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