Headlines: August 17th, 2007

A local identity card system would be better for citizens, cheaper and quicker to implement than a national identity card, is the claim in a paper from the New Local Government Network. Since 80 per cent of the public’s contact with the State is through local councils, individuals would benefit from a single form of identification when information is shared within the local government family. The proposal is based on the entitlement cards currently operated by many local councils.

The National Identity Card scheme has been costed with estimates up to 19.2 billion pounds. The scheme has been criticized and alternative solutions are being explored. It is estimated that the Register supporting the national cards will not be fully populated before 2020.

The framework for a local identity card scheme with authentication and eligibility-level information for public services is already in place in many areas of the country. Entitlement cards are in use as a library card, for small purchases at council leisure sites and libraries, access to leisure facilities, cashless payment for school meals, payment for public transport, proof of age, and discounts at participating commercial outlets.

This card could act as a proof of identity for local authority facilities, and could also be extended to services supplied by other Local Strategic Partnership organizations such as NHS Trusts and police forces.

Entitlement cards can play an important role in protecting identity, empowering citizens and encouraging community cohesion. However, the card would only act as an access point to information and it would not store the data explaining an individual’s entitlement to particular benefits or services.

Given the investment local authorities have devoted to improving ICT and expanding e-Government, local entitlement cards could prove more cost effective than a national identity card scheme and offer a sustainable standard of identification for local public service providers who access an organically-generated user service profile.

Local government has already successfully built a platform for identity management and delivering public services and there is a widespread recognition of the benefits of expanding the functionality of existing smartcards. This presents an opportunity to deliver the government’s goals for identity security through a pre-existing technology architecture, which could be rolled out quickly at reasonable cost.

Link: www.nlgn.org.uk