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Government claims further £200m in digital savings

Caroline Baldwin

The chancellor, George Osborne, appeared in Westminster this morning alongside minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and chief operating officer, Stephen Kelly, to announce £200m of savings made using technology over the past year.

The figure is part of the £14.3bn savings made between 2013 and 2014.

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The £200m savings are calculated using the baseline spending between 2009 and 2010, when the Labour government was in power. The figure has decreased since last year’s £500m savings (also compared to the 2009-10 baseline) because every yearly saving is compared to that benchmark and not the previous year’s spending.

The savings are made up of recurring and one-off savings, and the government said the figures in previous years may have been greater due to the immediate savings accrued at the time the government came into power.

Kelly noted that when the government came into power, one-off savings were made by renegotiating existing contracts.

“In the first phase of parliament I think honestly there were some IT investments which were ill-considered, so there was low hanging fruit in the first couple of years of the parliament,” said Kelly. “But now I think we are delighted to say we see far fewer of those.”

25 exemplar digital services

The £200m of savings were ascribed to improvements in government’s digital services through moving websites to GOV.UK and introducing online transaction services. The Government Digital Service (GDS) is currently in the middle of a transformation programme to move 25 of the most used government services online.

However, because the exemplar project is not due to be completed until early next year, none of the exemplar projects will be showing dividends yet, so the head of GDS, Mike Bracken couldn’t comment on specific savings from any exemplar projects today.

“The money isn’t in for that whole programme,” Bracken told Computer Weekly. “We haven’t got the full picture for 25 [exemplar services]. That programme finishes between January and March next year and, when the numbers come in, I’m sure they’re going to be very headline grabbing.”

Wider savings

The government also announced wider savings of £14.3bn. This figure totals savings against the 2009-10 benchmark from departments across government. These were coordinated by the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG).

The ERG works with departments to reduce wasteful spending, such as reliance on expensive consultants, as well as savings on everyday items like printer cartridges and paper.

Osborne also said: “We have tough controls on our IT spend. Now departments have to buy technology that – shock, horror – works.”

£5.4bn was also saved by improving government's commercial contracts.

“We know there is so much more to do to address the legacy of wasteful spending and renegotiate over fat contracts which are yet to expire,” said Maude. “So there will be no let up and I look forward to announcing even greater savings next year.”

Maude said the government expects to be saving £20m against the 2009-10 baseline from efficiency and reform, as well as reducing losses to fraud, error and debt.


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