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Tories promise more services online - and more cuts



Conservative manifesto is strong on enthusiasm but light on detail

A Conservative government would place more public services online - but the party's general election manifesto is shy of identifying which would become digital by default if it wins power on 7 May.

The 84-page manifesto boasts of creating "20 high quality digital services" and says: "We will save you time, hassle and money by moving more services online, while actively tackling digital exclusion."

As expected, the manifesto stresses the potential for further efficiency savings, saying a Conservative administration would achieve a further £10bn in savings by 2017-18 and £15-20bn in 2019-20.

On the sensitive issue of the NHS, however, the manifesto promises only to increase spending and provide seven-day-a-week access to GPs with no mention of the technology needed to achieve joined up care. It repeats the last government's pledges on transparency and access to electronic patient records "while retaining your right to opt out of your records being shared electronically".

On policing, the manifesto is more specific, saying: "We will use the Police Innovation Fund to accelerate the adoption of new technologies, including mobile devices, that will transform the service the public receives." It also promises to "continue the £375m modernisation of our courts system", which includes innovations such as wi-fi in all courts.

The party's promises on broadband are:
- to "secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017";
- subsidising the cost of installing superfast-capable satellite services in the very hardest to reach areas;
- releasing more radio spectrum from public sector use;
- making ultrafast broadband available "to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable".

Pressure for public sector reform will come from promised cuts: the manifesto promises to find £13bn from departmental savings, the same rate of reduction as in the last parliament.

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