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A think tank has argued that local authority "entitlement cards" could be more practical than the National Identity Card

New Local Government Network (NLGN) has published a pamphlet (pdf) on the subject, entitlesLocal Identity: The role of local entitlement cards in public service delivery.

It says local cards could prove to be cheaper, quicker, and provide a better safeguard of identity than the national scheme. It would also be more relevant to most needs as local government provides about 80 per cent of public services.

Victoria Barbary, author of the report, told GC News a national framework for the cards could be adopted to provide some consistency in their look, how they are used and the information procedures, and likened it to the framework provided by Visa and MasterCard for companies that issue credit cards.

"It would be a light touch national framework within which each council would have its own franchise, benefits and uses, providing an individually tailored system," she said, adding that it would have to be part of a statutory requirement.

In the report she argues: "Local entitlement cards have a number of benefits to citizens. They would help protect against identity fraud, not only by giving local service users an accepted form of identification, but also by ensuring individuals retain ownership of their identity through a citizen's account.

"Given the investment local authorities have devoted to improving ICT and expanding e-government, local entitlement cards could prove more cost effective than a national identity card scheme and offer a sustainable standard of identification for local public service providers who access an organically-generated user service profile. As such, local entitlement cards would align more accurately with the fragmentary and localised nature of identity, giving citizens a universally accepted form of identification that reflects their own self awareness and individuality."

The report points to the examples of councils such as Bracknell Forest BC and Bolton MBC in arguing that local cards could be used as a proof of identity and to access local services, such as benefits, public transport and leisure facilities. They could also enable councils to better share information between departments and be extended to services such as NHS trusts and police forces.

The entitlement card system could be accessed by users in a manner similar to internet banking, allowing service users to update their biographical footprint easily online using an account PIN, password, and/or other identifiers. People would therefore retain ownership of their identity and ensure that it is not altered without their consent.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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