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ID cards fuel leap in consultancy costs

The scheme has contributed to a 2,000 percent increase in the cost of Home Office consultants, taking the bill up to £147m last year
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Written by Nick Heath on

The UK's ID card scheme has helped fuel a 2,000 percent hike in the cost of Home Office consultants, taking the bill up to £147m last year.

Home Office spending on consultants shot up from £7.6m in 1997/98 to £147m in 2006/07, a period described by shadow home secretary David Davis as the "worst period in its 200-year history".

Spending on consultants within the Identity and Passport Service, responsible for realising the ID card scheme, increased from £237,000 to £30m during the same period.

Davis told ZDNet.co.uk's sister site, silicon.com: "The Home Office has had its worst period in its 200-year history, stumbling from crisis to crisis. Despite spending £150m last year on consultants, things are getting worse. Violent crime has doubled, immigration has tripled and police now spend more time on paperwork than patrol."

Home Office minister Liam Byrne defended the spending spike, claiming the government was buying in specialist expertise and attributing much of it to major outsourcing contracts and IT projects.

In a written answer to Parliament, Byrne said: "The use of external consultants provides the department with specialist knowledge, skill, capacity and technical expertise that would not otherwise be available. The department's expenditure on these services is allocated across a wide range of firms, from small, specialist companies with niche expertise and few employees, to global multinational organisations offering a broad spectrum and substantial depth of consultancy expertise."

The £147m consultancy bill is broken down into £118m for the Home Office last year and £29m across the department's other agencies, including the Identity and Passport Service. But a Home Office spokesman said this represents less than seven percent of the department's total expenditure on goods and services at £1.9bn.

He said: "This expenditure reflects the size and complexity of a large organisation, which the Home Office and its agencies certainly are."

The government plans to start taking the first biometric details from UK citizens for its National Identity Register scheme next year, but has delayed the mass roll-out of the scheme until 2015.

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