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Government CTO Liam Maxwell outlines GDS spending review priorities

Government CTO Liam Maxwell talks about the impending outcome of the comprehensive spending review, as well as Whitehall's improved relationship with Microsoft

HM Government chief technology officer (CTO) Liam Maxwell has shed some light on the technology bets his department has placed, as Whitehall waits with bated breath for the results of the comprehensive spending review (CSR) to be made public on 25 November 2015.

Speaking at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London, Maxwell said the Government Digital Service (GDS) has submitted several bids to HM Treasury to secure post-CSR funding for several of its core initiatives.

These include its government as a platform (GaaP) and Common Technology Services (CTS) initiatives, as well as its identity authentication scheme, Verify. A further bid has also been submitted for GDS itself, Maxwell added.

“They [the bids] are in, they have really good business cases, and we have departments signed up that really want to run those services. They save so much money we know there is a strong business case to make those work,” he said.

“GDS was always funded on savings we made to the website, but it’s a part of government now, and it is one of the things we have to do to serve the other parts of the department.”

The lead up to the CSR has seen government departments make business cases to the Treasury, lobbying for a portion of the £4tn that has been set aside to pay for public services over the course of the current parliament.

So far, four government departments are known to have submitted bids that will equate to a 30% cut in their spending over the next four years.

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While GDS awaits the outcome of its bids, Maxwell anticipates encouraging the use of common technology platforms across the government will be a major source of cost savings for the public sector in the future.

“We all know we can operate in the same offices, operate in the same environments and use the same technologies to work across departmental teams,” he said.

“We just need the technology to support that and its much, much cheaper if we do it this way than it was by heavily specifying an outsourcing contract and sending that out to the market.

“It’s much more about being in control of what you’re doing. So, we’ll be doing more with small companies,” he added.

From an enterprise supplier point of view, Maxwell said relations between Microsoft and the UK government are “back to normal” after the pair previously locked horns after the latter excluded the software giant from its list of preferred open standard document formats.  

“A lot of it is in the past,” he said. “You’ve seen with the use of Open Document Format, they’ve now taken that under their wing and we’re back to normal, and that’s a really good position.”

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