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GDS aims for £3.5bn savings using its £450m budget

The Government Digital Service plans £3.5bn in efficiency savings on the back of its £450m budget, including a £1.3bn saving from its government-as-a-platform programme

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is expected to save £3.5bn over the course of the next parliament in return for the £450m budget handed to it in the recent spending review.

The £450m, which is separate from the overall £1.8bn budget for government digital technology announced by chancellor George Osborne in the review, will be spent on the common technology services (CTS), government-as-a-platform (GaaP) and Gov.uk Verify programmes, Computer Weekly understands.

GDS submitted four bids to HM Treasury ahead of the spending review, for GaaP, CTS, Verify and one for GDS itself.

GDS aims to deliver £1.3bn in savings from its GaaP programme, which intends to deliver a platform-based government with departments across government using a common core infrastructure.

One of those platforms is Gov.uk Pay, a payments platform providing standardised electronic payments for public services. In October 2015, four government departments began taking “real payments” on the platform.

GDS also plans to continue developing its identity verification scheme, Verify, which is expected to contribute savings of £1.1bn.

Verify is intended to be the standard way for people accessing government services to prove they are who they say they are when logging in online to complete transactions. In the next 12 months, the government has set a target of three million Verify users, with the system fully live by April 2016.  

GDS anticipates it can save another £1.1bn by further rolling out its CTS programme to deliver shared and flexible technology for all of the civil service.

Commenting on the spending review, Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said the increased budget will help “transform the relationship between the citizen and the state”.

GDS will also continue to run cross-government services such as Gov.uk, where it expects to make further savings.

The GDS budget came as one of the most surprising announcements in Osborne’s autumn statement. Despite rumours prior to the spending review that suggested GDS would see significant cuts, its £450m budget is nearly double of what it previously received, while its 2014 budget was just £58m.

This is also the first time GDS has been given a multi-year settlement instead of a yearly budget, which underlines the government’s commitment to digital transformation.

Read more about the Government Digital Service

Local government IT feels ignored

However, Socitm, the professional association for public sector IT professionals, said it was disappointed the investment in digital transformation was so heavily focused on central government and ignored the “pressing need to join up public services locally”.

It said it welcomed the CTS programme, but wants it to “embrace local public services to support pan-government co-design and co-delivery”.

“There is no mention of any interest in or commitment to supporting the digital transformation of locally delivered services,” said a Socitm spokesperson.

TechUK CEO Julian David said he welcomed “evidence of the government’s commitment to digital transformation”, and added that the government must work closely with industry to bring innovation forward.  

Meanwhile, the Open Data Insitute’s deputy CEO and technical director, Jeni Tennison, said it was an encouraging sign that the government recognised the role digital and inftrastructure has to play.

“We now urge government to consider data as infrastructure that is fundamental for delivering digital transformation, growing the economy and realising cost reductions,” she said.

The breakdown of how the budget will be divided between the projects is not yet clear, but in October 2015 George Bridges told the House of Lords that GDS will publish further plans on its strategy of delivering a digital government before Christmas 2015.

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