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Hancock vows to support 'next phase' of GDS

Cabinet Office minister says Government Digital Service will continue to drive “transformation across government”

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock has promised that the Government Digital Service will continue to drive “transformation across government”, despite the unexpected exit of GDS leader Mike Bracken.

In his first public statement since Bracken’s departure, Hancock said in a blog post yesterday that the GDS will continue to deliver the next phase of its ambitious plan to “digitally transform the entire public sector”.

Since Bracken announced his departure to take up a position at the Co-operative Group earlier this month, rumours have been rife over potential cuts to GDS budgets and claims that his core strategy for government as a platform (GaaP) had been rejected.

But Bracken told Computer Weekly in an exclusive interview last week that the GaaP plan, which aims to get rid of the silos in which government IT is currently operating, is still going ahead and the business case will be considered as part of the government's current spending review.

Bracken is not the only one to have left the GDS. Since his announcement, several other senior GDS leaders have also quit, many with no other job lined up, sparking speculation about the organisation's future.

In an attempt to put the rumours to rest, Hancock said that he is a “huge supporter of the GDS’s mission” and, with Stephen Foreshew-Cain taking over the reins from Bracken and Liam Maxwell continuing as CTO, “as well as a stellar team, we have the right people in place to deliver the next phase of GDS”.

In his blog post, Hancock added: “GDS is the digital core of government and it is helping the public sector to deliver better digital services for less – essentially making sure that government 'can do' digital.

“There is so much more to do, and I look forward to leading it at ministerial level, and driving the transformation across government that our citizens expect.”

Last week, an internal audit report revealed that GDS has saved the government £1.7bn through digital and technology transformation.

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An IT strategy has to reflect reality. The silos are a fact of life until such time as the Haldane "reforms" (1917) are "undone". That will entail government functions becoming "shared cross-departmental people and service platforms" not just "common IT modules and public-facing websites". Rotating civil service high fliers (mainstream as well as digital) through Cabinet Office (including, but not just, GDS) and also between departments (in order to blur cultural boundaries) will be needed. A continuation of recent revolving doors between the public and private sectors will hinder rather than advance this process. That said, regular infusions of talent and innovation from the private sector will remain essential.