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Kevin Cunnington, the new director general of the Government Digital Service (GDS), wants to “strengthen and accelerate the pace of change” and has dismissed suggestions that the service will be broken up.
The appointment of Cunnington and the departure of former GDS boss Stephen Foreshew-Cain, who left after less than nine months in the job, have led to speculation that several Whitehall senior civil servants are keen to carve up the organisation.
However, in a blog post, Cunnington said that GDS will continue helping departments improve public services through digital.
“I’ve read many times about the end of GDS, but it has always come back stronger than before,” he said. “I want to tackle one thing head on: GDS will not be broken up.
“We remain part of the Cabinet Office, with a clear mandate to lead digital, technology and data across government.”
He added that he has the backing of civil service boss John Manzoni, who has previously said that he is a strong believer in digital government being best delivered through departments rather than by a central body.
As Computer Weekly previously reported, sources suggest that bringing in Cunnington is a compromise to ease tension between departments and GDS.
Part of this tension stems from the exclusion of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs from GDS’s business plan last year, which led to the organisation receiving £450m in the spending review.
In his blog post, Cunnington praised Foreshew-Cain for securing the funding and for his work in launching the Verify, Pay and Notify platforms for identity assurance, payments and electronic notifications, respectively, in the public sector.
Sources have also suggested that HMRC could take over Gov.uk Verify, which both HMRC and DWP have been reluctant to buy into. According to sources, HMRC is already investing in building its own identity system.
There have also been discussions about DWP taking control of Gov.uk, the single government website.