Government defends Nats sell-off



Tony Collins

The Government has suggested that private-sector executives will manage new technology better than the civil servants at...



Tony Collins

The Government has suggested that private-sector executives will manage new technology better than the civil servants at National Air Traffic Services (Nats).

This is one of the main reasons that the Government wants to press ahead with the partial privatisation of Nats.

The Government's views on IT managers at Nats are contained in its official response to criticisms in a House of Commons Select Committee report on the proposed public-private partnership for Nats.

The Transport committee described the proposed sell-off of 51% of Nats as the "worst possible option".

But the Government said in a report last week that Nats must acquire the skills to manage "developments in technology" allowing it to cope safely with the increased density of air traffic.

It also attacked the existing management, saying Nats has a "poor record in terms of the timely delivery of large-scale projects and its ability to control project costs".

The report cited the Swanwick air traffic control centre - on which Computer Weekly gave oral and written evidence to the Transport committee - which will cost far more than first planned, at £620m. The IT systems are set to cost more than the new purpose-designed building.

The report added that, to prevent a possible cost over-run at a new air traffic control centre in Prestwick - where the IT systems will be modelled on those at Swanwick - the Government has "had to appoint external project managers". In addition, the contract has had to be "fundamentally reworked".

But existing managers are enthusiastic about the sell-off. Executives at Nats have managed to convince the past two governments to press ahead with the sale.

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