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Death of ID card scheme left £6.5m of kit going begging

Should it plug a budget hole or a landfill hole?

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The government is working out what to do with £6.5m worth of kit left gathering dust after it pulled the plug on the ID card scheme earlier this year.

Home Secretary Theresa May was asked in a commons question: what the cost was of IT equipment purchased by or on behalf of the government in respect of the identity cards scheme; what was done with that equipment when she decided to end that scheme; and how much such equipment will be deployed for other purposes in government.

Standing in for his boss, Home Office minister Damian Green said that the previous administration had spent £6.5m "in respect of the Critical Workers Identity Card and Early Interest Scheme".

The first ID cards were targeted at airport and airline workers, and keen as mustard ID fans in Manchester and the North West.

That kit had now been withdrawn, Green explained, and "securely stored".

He added: "Assets and IT equipment relating to the National Identity Register require disposal/destruction and IPS will ensure that this happens in line with agreed guidelines."

If this seems a shocking waste, it's worthwhile remembering that £6.5m is just a drop in the ocean compared to the estimated £300m Labour spent on the flagship scheme. Of that, according to previous statements by Green, "£41 million [was spent] developing the policy, legislation and business case for the introduction of identity cards".

However, it does not appear that all kit associated with the ill-fated scheme will be trashed, pulped or otherwise smashed.

"As our IT equipment is generally managed under contract by our IT service providers, they will manage the re-use or disposal according to central government security policies," said Green. "The Home Office has a general policy of sharing, re-use and commonality of IT capabilities, in order to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve environmental sustainability."

Which suggests that somewhere, in a government department, there will be a little corner of an office that will forever be part of the ID card scheme. Or at least till the government loosens spending on IT kit. Whichever comes sooner... ®

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