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UK.gov convinces just 2,000 Mancunians to join ID card trial

All the momentum of a punctured bicycle

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The government's ID card pilot scheme in Manchester has failed to capture the North West's imagination with just 2,000 volunteers coming forward to date.

Manchester, with a population of just under half a million, has been picked for the first public rollout of the scheme. Ministers apparently believe that its comparatively high population of youngsters and business travellers - not to mention airport workers - would flock to IPS offices to give their dabs.

However, the government cruelly snatched away Mancunians' chance to be the first Brits to carry the cards by announcing a special volunteer scheme for Home Office staff.

The Manchester scheme is due to go live before the end of this year, but the figures that emerged in the Manchester Evening News last week suggest the IPS is not going to be swamped.

James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, defended the lack of interest so far, which has seen just 10,000 people across the whole UK express an interest in the cards.

"I don't think that 10,000 people is very low when you think that we haven't really marketed the scheme yet," he said.

"People are a bit confused about whether this is really going to happen so we will be ramping our communications up in the coming weeks," he added.

There's plenty of room to ramp. It also emerged last week that the ID card scheme - a centrepiece of the Labour Party's Home Office policy for most of the current decade - has attracted virtually none of the £500m the government blows on marketing every year.

In the year to last April, the government paid £62,000 "to marketing communication agencies for public information activities to ensure businesses were aware of the Identity Card for Foreign Nationals when it was introduced in November 2008".

So far, "payments of £464,314 have been made to marketing communication agencies by the Identity and Passport Service in preparation for the launch of the Identity Card and Identification Card for UK citizens in Greater Manchester and for airside workers later this year."

Of course, this could simply be part of the strategy. If the government made a real effort to let the populace know that the scheme was coming down the pipe, it's just possible that even more people would decide it was an issue worth flexing their electoral vote on. ®

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