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Public-sector IT suppliers fear that the government's forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) may result in less money being invested in the G-Cloud procurement framework.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) is currently preparing to take the wraps off the seventh iteration of G-Cloud, and has already confirmed that suppliers will able to apply to have their offerings listed on it later this month.
As was the case with previous versions of the framework, suppliers will have about six weeks to submit their applications, with G-Cloud 7 set to go live three months later.
This means G-Cloud 7 is likely to be open for business in November, which is around the same time that the details about CSR are due to be published, leaving some suppliers fearful of the impact this might have on the amount the Cabinet Office invests in it going forward.
As previously reported by Computer Weekly, Chancellor George Osborne has tasked Whitehall departments with finding ways to cut their resource budgets by up to 40% by 2019/2020 and, in turn, help the government cut public spending by a further £20bn.
Nicky Stewart, commercial director of G-Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider Skyscape Cloud Services, told Computer Weekly he shared this view.
“Our greatest hope is that the Cabinet Office will submit a robust plan for the G-Cloud and the Digital Marketplace, with increased, rather than decreased, investment and that this plan is approved,” she said.
GDS has already revealed some details about improvements made to the framework to make it easier for suppliers and buyers to use. But it is unclear how useful these will be in practice, said Robin Pape, public sector adviser at fellow G-Cloud IaaS provider Memset.
For instance, GDS has streamlined the process for suppliers by halving from two to one the number of systems they must use to submit applications. It has also pledged to simplify the language used in its guidance documents.
“Guidance in plainer English sounds good, but let’s see what it looks like when the invitation to tender arrives,” said Pape. “Moving to a single-system application may not be as helpful as it sounds, as I understand this means suppliers can’t carry forward their G-Cloud 6 services so easily.”
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Apart from this, it is long-term assurances about the government’s commitment to G-Cloud – and its wider policies – that suppliers are calling for, said Pape.
“The real issues for the future are continuing to build the level of business going through G-Cloud, both in central government as old private finance initiatives come to an end, and in the wider public sector, while continuing to drive the underlying policies around cloud-first procurement, open standards, open source and the inclusion of SME providers in more deals,” he added.
This will require continued and greater investment in G-Cloud, said Pape, which is what Stewart said her company would like to see too.
“While we very much appreciate and support the improvements that GDS and the Crown Commercial Service have announced for G-Cloud 7, these are just ‘nice to haves’, particularly when compared to receiving assurance from the government that it intends to continue to invest in and grow G-Cloud, support SMEs and provide a means to help departments address their digital and financial challenges,” Stewart added.
In a statement to Computer Weekly, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said that as the Spending Review is already under way, any talk of budget cuts or increases is just speculation.
"Digital transformation continues to be central to our reform of the public sector, helping deliver better services at a much lower cost," the spokesperson said.