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Chris Chant calls for money for 'woefully underfunded' G-cloud programme

Kathleen Hall

Former G-Cloud director Chris Chant has called for greater investment in the “woefully underfunded” programme, and claimed the Cabinet Office has reneged on promises for staffing the project.

Chant was responsible for getting the G-Cloud programme and the associated CloudStore procurement site off the ground in February 2012. Since then, there have been more than 200 purchases of IT services through the CloudStore, totaling more than £6m. However, this still remains a small amount compared with the public sector’s overall IT spend of more than £16bn.

Chant told Computer Weekly that the Cabinet Office originally promised to fund the equivalent of 20 full-time staff for the project, but currently the G-Cloud team consists of just five people, most of whom are borrowed from other departments. 

“G-Cloud is still woefully underfunded and under-resourced, and its members are still flogging away evenings and weekends to maintain the excellent service buyers and suppliers have enjoyed," said Chant in comments seen by Computer Weekly that were submitted to a blog post by government CTO Liam Maxwell. "If it wasn’t for this, the programme would have floundered.

“Mike [Bracken, head of the Government Digital Service] has brilliantly got the funding GDS needs to develop its outstanding product. Had they had the same proportion of funding G-Cloud have had, we would still be looking at an Alpha.

“So enough thanks and words from you [Liam Maxwell] and [Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude]. It’s time to get your hand in the Cabinet Office’s financial director’s pocket and get this key programme funded. Or all the great stuff that you want to do at low cost and high-speed will stall,” he said in the comments, which were awaiting moderation at the time of writing.

Chant claimed that in a meeting of the Cabinet Office board in summer 2011, everyone present agreed that "it was essential that the programme get the funding it needs as soon as possible", because "the main risk was lack of funding for the team."

The board meeting was attended by senior civil servants including then-Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell, former Cabinet Office chief operating officer (COO) Ian Watmore, O'Donnell's successor Jeremy Hayward, Cabinet Office finance director Bruce Mann, and former BP CEO Lord Browne. 

It’s time to get your hand in the Cabinet Office’s financial director’s pocket and get this key programme funded

Chris Chant, former G-Cloud director

In Liam Maxwell's blog post, The journey in the cloud has just begun, he said the framework was becoming an established way of doing business with technology.

“We now have to build on the success of this first year, strengthen our processes, and continue to push boundaries,” he said.

Maxwell said the Cabinet Office was working on a new, more user-friendly, version of the CloudStore and a new website, with clearer guidance, support and access to case studies and other resources.

“There are undoubtedly some great challenges ahead, but we believe that with your continued support we can make the second year even better than the first," he said. "Our goal is to make a real difference to the way the public sector uses and delivers the technology needed to deliver a 21st-century service infrastructure for the UK."

In a statement from the Cabinet Office, current G-Cloud director Denise McDonagh, said of the anniversary: “I am convinced that G-Cloud is a game changer for the way government buys, manages, delivers and operates IT, and interacts with suppliers, driving improved productivity, greater efficiencies and better value services for the taxpayer.

"The move to purchasing IT services as a commodity requires a culture shift for the public sector that won’t happen overnight. After only a year, though, most big government departments have bought services from the cloud, and there is significant buy-in from local government. Evidence of the benefits of cloud is growing all the time and we are working with buyers to help them adapt to commodity-based IT purchasing.”


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