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Prime minister Theresa May has appointed former secretary of state for work and pensions Damian Green as the new Cabinet Office minister.
In May’s cabinet reshuffle following last week’s general election, Green will now take on responsibility for digital government as Cabinet Office minister, as well as being appointed first secretary of state. The latter role means he has seniority over other ministers and effectively makes him deputy prime minister.
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Previous Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer lost his Ipswich seat in the election.
During his tenure at the Cabinet Office, Gummer was responsible for launching the much-delayed government transformation strategy that aimed to take “digital transformation further than ever before” by prioritising an overhaul of the civil service, developing skills and culture, using shared platforms, changing back-office processes and systems, and increasing collaboration.
Green is the third minister to hold responsibility for digital government in a year. Gummer took over from Matt Hancock in May’s reshuffle in July 2016.
However, it is unclear how much focus the new minister will put on digital, because his focus as first secretary of state is likely to be on Brexit negotiations.
The Institute for Government last week called for the prime minster to create a digital minister to drive government transformation. The think tank said there had been a lack of digital leadership since the departure of Francis Maude, and said it seemed that “senior ministers are not taking a keen interest in digital government”.
The Government Digital Service has also seen a lot of upheaval in recent years, with several new leaders and its senior leadership team effectively being completely replaced in the past 12 months
In his previous role as secretary of state for work and pensions, Green made the decision to move back the completion date for the Universal Credit programme until 2022 – five years later than the original 2017 target set at the project launch in 2011. During the coalition government’s term in office, he was police minister before losing his post in the 2014 reshuffle.