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July 22, 2014

GDS warns ‘low’ budget could hurt business plan

GDS wants to move all Gov websites to gov.uk by December.

By Joe Curtis

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has warned that its £58m budget to undertake an eight-month business plan is insufficient.

The GDS has unveiled a business plan up to March 2015 that will see it shift 320 public body websites to gov.uk by July 2014, accounting for 75% of such websites including HMRC, and 100% of them by December.

It also hopes to use its budget to transform 25 government services over the next eight months, helping departments exit unsuitable IT contracts to get better value for money as well as improving the G-Cloud.

However, it has warned that its budget is too small to hire digitally skilled staff.

Its budget was initially reduced from £21m to £16m from 2012-15 at the last spending review, but the GDS has supplemented that with money from the Treasury and National Cyber Security Fund, as well as other streams of public funding.

However, it said in its business plan: "We have insufficient funding, which could mean we’re unable to hire the people with the skills we need. We will address this by reviewing the business plan and budget quarterly so that the GDS Operations Board can take action if required."

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It aims to tackle this by helping departments hire interim staff and training workers, but added that other risks include not being able to meet demands for custom development of digital services and a lack of small and flexible IT contracts to carry out some of its plans.

It hopes to tackle this by promoting G-Cloud to departments to use SMBs to supply digital services.

A total £17m of the GDS’s budget will go on transferring more websites to gov.uk and campaigning to raise awareness of the suffix among the public, as well as £10m on transforming more services.

GDS has already made prison visit bookings and the ability to view a person’s driving record possible to do on the web, and plans to digitise the Land Registry in August and PAYE for staff in September.

By March 2015, people should be able to renew their passports online, but GDS warned it is unable to hire digitally skilled staff to undertake the work – a risk to the project.

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