The government's plan to cut IT spending by billions of pounds is a conjuring trick, says Vince Cable, the Shadow Chancellor for the Liberal Democrats.
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Cable was responding to a disclosure in Computer Weekly yesterday (10 February 2009) that the Chancellor Alistair Darling is planning savings of billions of pounds in the costs of running IT and the back office. The savings will form part of the Government's 2009 budget.
Cable said that the government has yet to provide evidence it made the £21bn savings which Gordon Brown promised by 2008 on the basis of a report on efficiency in 2004 by Sir Peter Gershon, former chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce.
Cable told Computer Weekly that ministerial promises of savings are "a bit of con".
He said, "The government has a big budget deficit to explain and it does look as if they are going to resort to this time-honoured escape. It is like government saying it is going to solve its problems by abolishing waste. It is at that level of superficial cynicism. To me it sounds suspiciously like a conjuring trick. They are trying to make savings but these things of course do not happen."
At the Government IT 09 conference last week Martin Read, former Chief Executive of Logica and now an adviser to the Treasury, said an efficiency review has identified "significant" savings from the estimated annual spend of £16bn on IT and £18bn on back-office administration. Further details will be in the government's 2009 Spring budget, he said.