Revenue and Customs merger plan hinges on IT

Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced plans to free-up millions of pounds to invest in public services by merging Whitehall's...

Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced plans to free-up millions of pounds to invest in public services by merging Whitehall's biggest users of IT - Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue - into a single agency.

But the success of the merger, which aims to cut 10,500 jobs over the next four years, will hinge on the successful rationalisation of more than 1,000 IT systems.

A review of the departments by Gus O'Donnell for the Treasury, published last week, makes it clear that the departments will need to adopt a common information strategy if the government is to meet its cost savings targets.

"The government is now openly banking on technology and business change as a means of enabling public service investment," said Eric Woods, practice director for the public sector at Ovum Holway. "If it is to succeed in its goals, it will have to pay as much attention to ensuring strong and experienced IT management as it will undoubtedly give to procurement savings."

Conservative shadow minister Chris Chope warned that a rationalisation of two complex IT systems could prove more difficult and more risky than the government anticipates.

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