Budget Missed Incentives For IT Savings, Says Socitm

The Chancellor should have invested in local authorities to save more and reduce the economy’s carbon footprint

Chancellor George Osborne missed several opportunities in this week’s budget to boost the economy and reduce carbon emissions by offering investment and incentives to local authorities, accused Socitm, the public sector ICT association.

Jos Creese, president of Socitm, singled out IT sustainability as one area where incentives, totally absent at the moment, would have been welcomed. Despite setting a carbon price minimum and tripling the capitalisation for the Green Investment Bank, he failed to encourage the establishment of green data centres and promote digitally assisted communications to reduce travel costs. Socitm believes that measures such as these would reduce the economy’s carbon footprint.

Fear Of Past IT Failures

The professional body welcomed Osborne’s announcement of 21 enterprise zones and the creation of 12 university technical colleges but said that it feels these measures are “relatively modest”.

“There is still a suspicion and fear of IT in the minds of some government decision-makers because of the well-publicised public sector IT project fiascos – although these occur in both public and private sectors,” observed Creese. “This may account for a reluctance to be more specific about the potential for technology to reform public services in particular.’

Tax and other incentives for home and flexible working and associated developments in telehealth could deliver savings for the public purse while helping reduce carbon emissions, mitigate the effect of escalating energy costs and improve public services, Socitm said.

The organisation also pointed out that it would like to see more done to overcome digital exclusion.

“The government’s own digital champion [Martha Lane Fox] has pointed out that the average household saves £560 a year by shopping and paying bills online, but adding this amount to the state pension would cost the Treasury £6 billion a year. Economic growth will depend on broadband, electronic service and demand stimulation.”

To this end, additional investment in infrastructure to speed up the penetration of superfast broadband would have been welcome, building on the investments currently limited to Enterprise Zones.