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Government to introduce online-only public services

The government is to cut costs by moving more public services online, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will announce today.

It is expected that some services such as student loans, benefits and driving licence applications are to go online-only.

By shifting 30% of government service delivery contracts to digital channels, the government could save more than £1.3bn, rising to £2.2bn if 50% of contacts shifted to digital, according to digital champion Martha Lane Fox.

"Government should take advantage of the more open, agile and cheaper digital technologies to deliver simpler and more effective digital services to users, particularly to disadvantaged groups who are some of the heaviest users of government services," said Lane Fox.

Maude said the move will drive efficiency and service improvements. "We are in a situation where there are contracts we inherited that effectively limit the number of people who can use some online services - and where you cannot apply for the majority of forms of benefits online, at all. This is inconvenient, expensive, wasteful and ridiculous and it cannot continue," he said.

However, the announcement is likely to raise concerns from groups such as Age UK, which points out that six million people over the age of 65 have no access to the internet. "While we welcome the government's ambition for a digital revolution, this should not come at the cost of the millions of people, many older, who are not online," said a spokesperson for the charity.

Lane Fox has previously claimed that 80% of government interactions are with the bottom 25% of income earners - who are least likely to have internet access. As many as 10 million people in the UK have never accessed the internet.

Martha Lane Fox

But Maude denied this would mean leaving people behind who do not have access to the web. "Every single government service must be available to everyone - no matter if they are online or not," he said.


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