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ID Cards cost cut to £5.6bn

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The cost of the government's planned ID card scheme has dropped to a bargain £5.6bn the government's latest six monthly report into the project's progress reveals.

The £5.6bn figure covers the total cost of providing ID cards and biometric passports to UK and resident Irish citizens and foreign nationals wishing to extend their leave in the UK. The last government estimate back in May was £5.75bn.

Mysteriously, costs will be reduced by £85m due to people delaying renewal of their passports. Why people are doing so in not revealed in the report.

A Home Office spokesman explained: "We're not sure why this is happening but we think there may be an impact from other forms of ID - like photo driving licenses reducing people's need for a passport.

"Another factor is the travel industry's move to last minute bookings means some people only think about renewing their passport at the last minute. And changes in travel trends - we know there are more journeys, but we don't know if that means more people are travelling or its the same people travelling more often."

The other saving is a £100m reduction in the assumed cost of making the actual passports and ID cards containing a fingerprint biometric. The Home Office spokesman said as the project neared procurement the cost could be more accurately nailed down because original estimates were conservative.

The period covered by the estimates has also been changed from April 2007-April 2017 to October 2007-October 2017.

Set-up costs are now estimated at £245m, while operational costs for the 10 years are predicted to be £5.185bn, giving a total of £5.4bn. These figures include "provision for optimism bias".

The London School of Economics (LSE) Identity Project originally estimated the costs of the ID card project at £19.2bn. Looking at today's figures, they were surprised that two decisions on the scheme had not resulted in bigger savings. The decision to drop iris recognition in favour of cheaper fingerprint recognition does not appear to have saved any money. Equally, the move to use existing government databases rather than create a new one from scratch has not resulted in any reduction in the budget.

The Home Office pdf is here, and the LSE response is here. ®

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