E-government will save local authorities a hefty £320 million, the deputy prime minister John Prescott's office has sworn blind.

By implementing local e-government national projects, not only would they make significant savings but also increase revenue by £60 million per year, while delivering service improvements worth £1.3 billion.

Prescott's office is basing its claims on a study it commissioned from the French IT consulting and services specialist CapGemini, which looked at six of 22 national projects the government is promoting. Although CapGemini is not entirely without conflicting interests, being a major contractor to the government's e-government initiative.

"These programs were chosen for study because they are a good sample for the program as a whole and because they are the most well developed of all the programs," said a spokesperson from the National Projects Programme.

The government has long pushed e-government's benefits, though it remains far behind its own targets for putting services online, to few people's surprise. A number of high-profile IT failures across government have also put a big question mark over its approach.

Last year, IDC published a report stating that the UK government was falling behind its European counterparts in providing its citizens with e-government services. Forrester also published its own findings that the government would fail to reach the 2005 self-imposed deadline, partly because it doesn't understand how to work with fast moving, small e-commerce vendors and how to build partnerships.

But the government continues to assert it is on the right track, though privately sources concede the 2005 deadline is now simply more of a guideline.

Prescott's office set up the local e-government National Projects Programme to help all English local authorities achieve the 2005 local e-government targets and develop a vision for e-government within their own authorities. The funding comes from it, but the National Projects are run by local authorities for the benefit of other local authorities.

The National Projects Programme spokesman said the government doesn't know exact numbers in terms of which councils have adopted what programs but said that 80 percent of councils "are already involved in at least one national project". The spokesman said that "involvement" went beyond simply inquiring about a program but didn't necessarily include any commitment to implement.