Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is considering adopting a plan that would see a Conservative Government cap government IT contracts at £100 million – and wants to know what you think of the idea.

It is part of a set of proposals which has been drawn up by Dr Mark Thompson of the Judge Business School at Cambridge University over the last nine months and on which the party’s treasury team and Implementation Unit (headed by Francis Maude) will now consult.

The key recommendations are:

  • The government could save at least £600 million per year if it adopted a more effective open IT procurement process. The open source savings would come not just from reduced licensing costs, but importantly by freeing government bodies from long-term, monopoly supply situations.
  • New government data standards should be introduced across government, enabling large scale IT  projects to be split into small modular components.
  • This means that the UK government should never again need to sign an IT software contract worth over £100 million – so no more IT ‘white elephants’. 

The thinking is that smaller IT projects means less risk of failure, and that costs would be cut by opening up the procurement system to more companies, thereby increasing competition for IT contracts.

Anything to put an end to the spiralling costs of exercises such as the NHS supercomputer, the CSA IT system and the probbation service computer system must surely be welcome.

Mr Osborne said:

"The Conservative Party is looking to the future. We have led the
debate on using open source software in government, and I’m delighted
that Dr Mark Thompson has come forward with these detailed

"These proposals aren’t just about saving money – they’re about
modernising government, making the public sector more innovative and
improving public services.

“Before we take these ideas forward, we’re going to hold a consultation process – and as part of that process, I want to hear what ConservativeHome readers think about the proposals. After all, being open to new ideas is what open source is all about.”

Jonathan Isaby