The new housing benefit system, the community charge, a decentralised education service and competitive tendering all herald good times ahead for suppliers of information technology to local government. In a report published yesterday by ICL, who supply over 50% of local authorities in the UK, it is estimated that local government will spend over UKP600m a year on computer systems by 1990, an increase of 700% since 1980. The report, Local Government in Britain, based on research done for ICL by Gallup, says that the main growth area for spending between 1983 and 1993 is in the use of departmental systems, rising from 12% of total computer spend in 1988 to 22% in 1993. This reflects the trend towards decentralisation and is expected to lead to a significant decrease in the use of corporate systems, falling from 67% of total spending in 1988 to 46% in 1993. The largest users are likely to be finance departments to aid the implementation of the community charge and housing benefits legislation. There are now more than 200,000 computer users within local government, making British municipal administrations among the most technologically advanced in Western Europe. Authorities can now offer decentralised neighbourhood offices, computerised billing, financial modelling, on-line data systems and high-street viewdata networks allowing the public to learn what is happening in their area. However the report states that all departments will require more computer power over the next 10 years. From refuse collection to local welfare advice, future service is likely to depend to a much greater extent upon information technology. And ICL, which competes with a clutch of foreign suppliers led by McDonnell-Douglas, Honeywell Bull and NCR, will be hoping to garner a healthy share of the business for itself.