ID cards could wear out too quickly

And data centres won't be ready in time...

And data centres won't be ready in time...

ID cards may not last as long as expected and the government may struggle to find enough data centre space to host the IT systems of the controversial programme.

The government has published parts of a review of the programme by consultant KPMG, which said the costings produced by the Home Office are "robust and appropriate" for the current stage of development.

But the consultants also said the evidence from suppliers that the contactless smart cards would last 10 years - as the government hopes - is inconclusive and warned "the durability of the cards over the 10 year period is questionable".

KPMG also said the estimates for the levels of lost, stolen, damaged or faulty cards, based on passport figures, "appear low".

Costs of increased damage rates for the cards should be added to the business plan, the report recommended but added: "We recognise that the life span of cards of this type is likely to grow over time and this increase in durability should also be considered."

The consultants also warned that getting enough data centre space in time to roll out the ID card scheme may be a struggle. Although government cost estimates are in line with the market, KPMG warns "a more critical issue" is the timescale to acquire such locations.

It warned: "The scheme plan requires them to be available in two years, yet there are few available on the market that meet the requirements and the new building timescale is about three years."

KPMG said a contingency plan is being developed which proposes an interim solution that allows for compromises on certain requirements - such as space - until a full facility can be acquired.

The unit costs of the standard hardware and software for the National Identity Register appear reasonable but the number of enterprise-scale servers required is more uncertain, the report said, recommending that more detailed discussions should take place with other biometric identity programmes to understand the biometric performance and associated costs including licence fees.

Home Office minister Andy Burnham said he was pleased that KPMG shared the government's confidence in the cost estimates for the project, and hit out at critics.

He said in a statement: "There has been lots of discussion of the potential costs of identity cards, much of it based on misinformation and misunderstanding. No government would introduce identity cards if the costs to the public are seen as unreasonable."