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George Osborne promises £1.8bn funding for digital technology

Chancellor George Osborne announced a £1.8bn investment in digital technology over the next four years and handed the Government Digital Service £450m

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has been given a £450m budget, and chancellor George Osborne has announced a £1.8bn investment in digital technology and transformation projects in the spending review published on 25 November 2015.

“The spending review will invest £1.8bn in digital technology and transformation projects across the public sector over the next four years, cementing the government’s position as a digital leader,” the report said.

“GDS will continue to act as the digital, data and technology centre for government, supporting departments as they transform their business operations, setting best practice and ensuring quality of services."

To support this work, GDS will receive £450m over the next five years, but the core Cabinet Office budget will be cut by 26%, Osborne said in his autumn statement.

In October 2015, deputy director of government technology Andy Beale said GDS would “turn down the volume in the centre” and support government departments to take on more of the work themselves.

The spending review said the GDS will continue to create common platforms such as Pay, which went live with a beta version in October 2015. By 2020, the government’s ambition is for citizens to be able to pay for every central government service online.

Commenting on the spending review, Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said that over the next five years, it will ”harness our world class GDS to transform the relationship between the citizen and the state.

“By ramping up our digital capabilities we've already saved £3.56 billion in the past 3 years but we've only scraped the surface. We will use this new investment to develop new technology that make it easier and clearer to use a whole host of government services such as renewing your driving licence or pay your tax bill - whilst also being significantly cheaper to run,” Hancock said.

Julian David, chief executive of techUK, said the industry body welcomes the government’s “commitment to digital transformation “.

“Government and industry must work closely together to bring innovation to government,” he said.

 The move to nearly double the GDS budget comes as a surprise to many, as since previous GDS boss Mike Bracken announced his unexpected departure on 3 August 2015, 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. 

In his exit interview with Computer Weekly earlier this year, Bracken cited conflict between GDS and senior departmental civil servants over the future direction of digital reform as one of his reasons for leaving.

However, since then, the Cabinet Office and GDS have confirmed the support for GaaP will continue and, in October 2015, Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary George Bridges said a strategy on the future of GDS will be published before Christmas 2015.

Earlier in November, GDS chief technology officer Liam Maxwell said it had submitted several bids to HM Treasury ahead of the spending review.

These included its GaaP and Common Technology Services (CTS) initiatives, as well as its identity authentication scheme, Verify. A further bid was submitted for GDS itself - all four were given support in the spending review report.

The spending review, which had 58 mentions of the word “digital”, also announced it will publish a Digital Transformation Plan in early 2016, which will set out how the government will “ensure the benefits of digital communications infrastructures”.

 Other digital projects that received funding in the spending review include:

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