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GDS set for share of £55m pot to boost digital government plan

Chancellor George Osborne set aside funds in his budget to support digital transformation

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is set to receive a share of a £55m “efficiency and reform” fund to define business cases for new digital projects across Whitehall.

The announcement was hidden away on page 82 of the 123-page Summer Budget from chancellor George Osborne yesterday (8 July 2015). Under a heading labelled “Digital transformation”, it said: “The government will provide seed funding to the Cabinet Office to work with departments in generating a series of innovative business cases to inform the Spending Review. The government’s aim is to deliver redesigned, user-friendly public services fit for the digital age, as well as delivering efficiencies across the public sector.”

The statement referenced a line in the financial accounts detailing the budget’s spending and saving commitments, showing £55m allocated to “efficiency and reform” – the same reference was made from a funding commitment for commercial land and property reforms, suggesting the two items will share the available funds.

The Cabinet Office was unable to provide further details – a spokesman told Computer Weekly it had “nothing to add on this at the moment”.  The chancellor’s next spending review, which typically sets out departmental budgets for the next three years, is expected to be completed later this year.

GDS has already been working with the Treasury and consultancy McKinsey to develop a business case for its government-as-a-platform (GaaP) strategy to create standardised systems for common functionality that can be used across Whitehall.

The funding is likely to support additional work to assess potential savings for other GaaP developments as well as accelerating moves to make more public services “digital by default”.

In the previous parliament under the coalition government, GDS led the development of 25 digital transactions, of which 20 had been released to the public in some form by the time of the general election in May 2015.

The new Cabinet Office minister responsible for GDS, Matt Hancock, said in June 2015 that digital government is a “chance to build a new state”.

“Many of the most successful companies in the world take a platform-based approach – companies like Google, Apple and PayPal. We too are building a common set of platforms, core digital plumbing which can be used by services across government,” he said at the time.

Hancock has also called for a “data culture” across government, suggesting that some of the funds may also go to investigating business cases for open data projects intended to reform services.

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