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7 July, 2005

Cost laundering

NØ2IDOhhh... so that's how the government plans to hide the true cost of ID cards: by making people pay via other, seemingly separate services.

The Register explains that companies may be charged for Criminal Records Bureau (and hence National Identity Register) checks on prospective employees, providing a fairly small but consistent revenue stream contributing to the costs of the national ID database. One could make the obvious observation that the income could be increased by expanding the range of employers required to make criminal record checks, but that's speculative.
Likewise with driving licences: it's suggested that use of ID card details may streamline applications – but there'd be a NIR transaction charge for doing so.

That's the underlying point: the database may partly fund itself through transaction charges each time an organisation needs to access someone's details, thereby reducing the up-front cost of each card – the 'soundbite' figure which the government needs to massage.
Yet that transaction charge will either be passed on to individuals directly, or borne by agencies such as the DVLA, themselves funded by public money i.e. taxpayers will be paying anyway.

Consider that carefully: the DVLA, a government agency funded from taxes and licence application fees, would be paying the NIR, another government agency; effectively, an inter-departmental budget transfer. In real terms, how does that differ from the public paying the NIR directly, through taxes and application fees, and how does paying at the point of applying for a driving licence differ from paying at the point of applying for an ID card?
Apart from 'coincidentally' making the ID card look cheaper initially, of course.

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