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The Autumn Spending Review - what news for tech?

View profile for Paul Fox
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The Autumn Spending Review - what news for tech?

This autumn’s Spending Review was nothing if not full of surprises, and worth watching if only to see the Shadow Chancellor respond by withdrawing a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book from his pocket, and reading aloud from it to the Commons.

But in amongst the rather more headline-grabbing announcements regarding tax credits and budgets slashed to the bone, there are some points to note regarding the future of tech. Happily, it looks as though the tech sector will be getting an increase in funding (though not, of course, anything like as much as some hoped). There were pledges to continue boosting the government’s own digital services, as well as continued recognition to pledge sufficient financial support to mount an effective defence against cyber crime.

A princely £1.8 billion is to be invested in digital tech projects, including an online tax collection system. Police budgets are stagnant (much to the concern of many commentators), but there are drives to improve the tech and comms services available to police – including 4G comms that will allow officers on the move to take fingerprints digitally - and take, securely store and transmit electronic witness statements.

The continued sale of court buildings which are ‘underused’ – a contentious scheme, not welcomed by those who prefer to see the administration of justice remaining visible within the community – will continue, with the hope of raising £700 million to be ploughed back into the court system via IT schemes including better and more reliable video links for courts. The NHS is to receive £1 billion over five years to improve the connectivity of its services – which sounds a magnificent sum, but is significantly less than the £5.6 billion formally requested by the Department of Health.

Something of a mixed bag, then, with investments being promised, though not to the extent hoped for and not without cuts elsewhere. Nonetheless, there continues to be evidence of a drive towards embedding IT and tech innovations into public services, not least into the courts.

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