The government's IT policies are in place - and some good ones at that. Even the National Audit Office has acknowledged progress in beginning to cut some of the layers of excess fat from IT goods, services and suppliers.

But look back over the last decade of government aspirations and similar policies have been tried before. There's been a policy on the use of open source software, for example, since 2002, together with the requirement to use open standards (remember e-GIF?), yet it is only with the recent mandate of the open standards principles that headway is at last being made.

The spend controls process is saving millions from IT-related programme expenditure. But one of the biggest challenges remains a strong institutional inertia to change. Why should this be so? After all, the policies are eminently sensible, aiming to bring IT into the 21st century and to improve public services while driving out waste and inefficiencies.

Yet out-dated and failed approaches continue to survive. At least one government advisor has called this cultural resistance to change as evidence of Stockholm syndrome: some officials in Whitehall appear so held hostage by the old IT model and their dependency on its bad, expensive and disastrous habits that they not only can't break free but don't even have the desire to do so.

"Stockholm syndrome" is a fair analysis of current behaviours that seem intentionally designed to buck government policy. These include letting the traditional supply base continue much as before; renewing expensive software and consultancy arrangements without any analysis of real user needs; and bundling multiple requirements into large monolithic procurements that only the big old suppliers can handle.

The political will is there to change, with cross-party support and a strong and determined centre driving change. There is the promise of a virtuous circle of smaller, more agile systems being procured from better and more innovative suppliers, building on open technology standards and platform principles.

The prize at hand is significant: better public services at lower cost and the potential to use the government's enormous influence in the IT marketplace to help drive economic growth.

Yet as the downgrading of the UK's credit rating shows, time is not on our side. We need our public services to be redeveloped quickly and efficiently. IT reform now depends as much on rapidly overcoming cultural resistance from Whitehall's internal hostages as on driving successful transformation of IT itself.