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Government must be servant of the people, says Ben Gummer

Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer reiterates government commitment to SMEs and reveals he has given GDS “two new large pieces of work” since taking office

Launching new guidelines for collaborating and working with suppliers, Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer said the government needs to do more to listen to its citizens’ needs.

Speaking at TechUK’s launch of the supplier standard principles – a collaborative set of guidelines created by Cabinet Office with help from the tech body – Gummer reiterated the government’s commitment to working with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

He also said the government needs to become more of a servant of its people, delivering the services citizens need, which can’t be done without the help of innovative suppliers.

Gummer added that that the government can only innovate when “enabled by a rich and diverse supply chain”.

“You may in the past have not had that kind of fruitful relationship with government you feel bigger competitors have,” he told the SMEs in the room.

“I want to change that so you feel the government is a willing partner, and not putting blocks in your path.”

Gummer, who was brought in as part of Theresa May’s re-shuffle, said the vision the government has for digital “has never been so clear, so intense and so co-ordinated”.

Although praising the work the Government Digital Service (GDS) has done, he also said that GDS “isn’t doing everything it could do” and hasn’t been given the power or resources to do so.

Gummer added that he has commissioned GDS “to do two large pieces of work”, and said further details would be announced in the next weeks and months.  

Commenting on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, he said Brexit was a “a reflection on the state of politics and the feeling people have that the country isn’t working for them”.

“In an age where we’re more contactable and approachable because of digital, people feel that government is further away. The vote gives us an enormous opportunity, this is a challenge we have to grasp with both hands,” said Gummer.

He added that digital is not just important when it comes to innovate and its relationships with suppliers, but also “how the country reinvents itself”.

The supplier standard is aimed to be a guide for businesses, with six principles forming the benchmark for IT and technology contracts in government.

“The new supplier standard is just a starting point,” said Gummer. “We want suppliers, both current and potential, to take note of the key principles and use them to help in the bidding process for government IT and tech projects.” 

The principles include putting user needs first, seeing data as a public asset and building services based on open standards and reusable components. They also focus on transparent contracting, continuing engagement and simple and clear transactions. 

TechUK CEO Julian David said: “To achieve the government’s ambition of digitally enabled public services that meet the needs of 21st century Britain, it’s vital that public and private sectors work closely together. 

“These six principles are a great step forward in delivering the right collaboration between government and industry,” he added. “They will be the basis for opening procurement to companies large and small, exposing government departments to the best innovation our tech sector has to offer, and delivering value for money to the UK taxpayer.”

Over the next three months, the government digital service will be looking for feedback on the new supplier standard, which are currently in beta.

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