Darling fails to deliver

After 50 minutes of soporific buzz words and statistics, it became clear that, for IT at least, Alistair Darling's Budget had very little to offer.

After 50 minutes of soporific buzz words and statistics, it became clear that, for IT at least, Alistair Darling's Budget had very little to offer.

There were a couple of nods to technology. Congestion charging initiatives and plans to trial biometrics at Heathrow could kick-start some major IT investments. And the government's plans to require businesses to make buildings carbon neutral by 2019 could create difficulties for datacentre managers.

But for most IT professionals, the Budget was a missed opportunity.

Any hopes that the tax breaks for research and development announced by Darling would cut the cost of software development were quickly dashed. Accountants point out that what the chancellor is giving with one hand, the government plans to take away with the other, by taxing research projects when they lead to products.

Many were hoping that Darling would use the Budget to support businesses tackling computer crime. The problem costs the economy billions of pounds a year, and the fear of e-crime is deterring many people from buying online.

The police and industry have been calling for funding for an e-crime unit to replace the now defunct National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. A signal that the government planned to support the new unit would have won Darling much admiration.

But the greatest omission was the failure to address the UK's lamentable performance in training and developing IT professionals.

Organisations such as E-Skills UK have done much to improve IT courses in universities, but they have been unable to stem the decline in the number of young people entering the IT profession. With few employers giving training for IT staff the priority it needs, the UK is heading towards an IT training crunch.

The chancellor could have reversed the decline by announcing sorely needed tax breaks for training, for companies and for self-employed contractors. Without them, the UK faces a struggle to compete with the highly trained IT professionals in places such as India, where tax breaks for training are taken for granted.




This was last published in March 2008

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