Labour’s £11billion Scorched Earth Spending Spree
Having brought this country to the verge of bankruptcy with the biggest spending spree in our history, Gordon Brown and Labour are spending a further £11billion we don’t have on a series of computer projects. These are flagship Labour projects, which are being written with very expensive cancellation clauses, to prevent an incoming Government cancelling any of Labour’s pet projects.
Despite the looming squeeze on public spending, ministers are trying to push through several massive computer contracts before ballot day, which is widely expected on 6 May. The “break clauses” in some deals may make them very expensive to cancel, locking in the new government.
Tory frontbenchers believe that, if they win power, they would discover “poison pills”, making it harder for them to announce the immediate spending cuts they have promised. As well as contracts that are difficult to scrap, the Conservatives fear that Whitehall budgets have been drawn up to protect flagship Labour projects such as housing and children’s services, so that any attempt to find small-scale savings would inflict maximum political damage.
The Independent understands that last-ditch actions planned by the Government this month include:
*approving local supplier contracts for the controversial £12.7bn NHS electronic patient records scheme, the largest computer project in the UK, which the Tories would dismantle;
*signing a £1bn logistics software contract for the Ministry of Defence;
*speeding up a £600m contract to run new personal pension accounts due to start in 2012;
*completing an £800m agreement for communications equipment and services at the Serious Organised Crime Agency;
*starting to print the 30 million forms for the 2011 census, even though the Tories have said they would scale back the £482m project.
Labour denies acting irresponsibly and says an incoming government would be able to cancel the personal pensions contract at a cost of only £25m this autumn. But one minister admitted privately: “We are pushing hard on what we can get through by the end of March and asking civil servants to prioritise that, rather than medium- and long-term projects which could not be completed by the election.”
Government IT projects: How Labour’s spending adds up
The Government has spent an estimated £100bn on computer projects since 1997 – and several have run into big problems.
*National Programme for IT (NHS)
The cost of bringing in electronic patient records that could be accessed by all GPs and hospitals in England has ballooned to £12.7bn. The scheme, originally due to be completed in 2005, will not now take effect until 2015-16.
*Defence Information Infrastructure (DII)
Project to replace hundreds of Ministry of Defence computer systems, announced in 2005, is running more than £180m over budget at £7.1bn and 18 months late.
*National Identity Scheme
Originally costed at £3bn, the budget for controversial plan for identity cards has risen to £5bn and ministers have abandoned plans to move eventually to make them compulsory.
*Single Payment Scheme
The scheme for paying subsidies to Britain’s 100,000 farmers has cost £350m but has been beset with problems. Spending watchdogs say it risks becoming obsolete.
*Libra system (magistrates courts)
Plans to set up an integrated system for courts have proved more difficult to implement than originally expected and the budget has increased to more than £400m.
The cost of transferring the computer systems of Britain’s intelligence and eavesdropping centre to a new building has risen from £41m to more than £300m, according to the National Audit Office.