back to article C'mon, it's the current year! Report finds UK gov could save £2bn by modernising IT

The UK government could save £2bn by 2020 by overhauling its clunky technology and legacy contracts and shifting citizens to digital services, according to the Institute for Government. The independent charity's report claims that savings through digital have so far been minimal. Far more could be saved with a proper focus on …

  1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    A civil servant, let alone a minister, would be totally insane to engage in a transformation that cuts their staffs. It's the core measure of one's relative status within government. And that doesn't even take in consideration awarding juicy contracts in order to curry favor with some enterprise likely to select them for a directorship upon retirement from government.

    The rewards are diametrically opposed to the stated goals of GDS.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Quite. And therefore, any measure of saving that depends solely on cutting staff is not gonna happen.

      And everyone knows it.

      Which means that this report is produced by... people who are talking as if absurdities were real, because they're too lazy or just too dim to think of anything that might really work.

      And El Reg is reporting this completely insight- and information-free analysis because?

  2. J P

    But how much would it cost us?

    HMRC's MTD would shift everyone onto digital, and save HMRC some of our money - they reckon £945m a year of tax would be properly classified, and an unknown amount saved in their own systems (although they've been offered £1.3bn to make it work in the first place which'll need to be recouped; any guesses on how far that £1.3bn will go over budget and eat further into the "profits"?)

    But the FSB reckon it'll cost their members and average of £2,770pa to implement - across the 5m or so small/medium businesses in the UK, that's a cost of about £13-14bn pa, and it'll cost big business even more to change their systems to meet HMRC's specifications as well as their own commercial requirements.

    And that's before we start on infrastructure readiness, digital assist/digital exclusion stats and the costs from errors. To err is human, but to truly foul things up takes a computer - a good accountant can normally fix a shoebox full of receipts and an exercise book full of double(ish) entry and sums. But stick all that lot into a computer and it can be utterly unresolvable; Excel is bad enough, but on proprietary integrated accounts packages it's simply impossible.

    Society's meant to be about a joint effort between citizen & state; changing stuff just for one party's benefit is the wrong way to go about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But how much would it cost us?

      If I see what HMRC and Cabinet Office for that matter have cooked up so far, I fear the talent is low in those ones.

      That strikes me as the key issue: you need someone competent to develop and execute such a strategy against a tide of political players who are clueless but want to have a say for the glory, and the consultancy bottom feeders surrounding government have since long sucked out such talent.

      The result is that you have some people with only half a clue deploying such consultancies who then focus on constructing support mechanisms for their own income, not for the citizens, with absolutely nobody exercising any control over it until it's *way* too late to correct.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    and in other news

    Initial estimates indicate that the main players (Crapita etc) involved with this program would expect revenue from the 'transformation' would be at least double the expected savings.

    Several tens of millions of this has aleady been earmarked as renumeration for the civil servants and MP's who, cough cough, award the contracts.

    Business as usual then?

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: and in other news

      Oh dear, you dropped the 'C' word. Recently I've had dealings with them, now working in local govt IT. They have fallen short of my expectations, which were already low.

  4. Smooth Newt

    Why "The independent charity's..."?

    Independent of what? Are there charities which aren't "independent" of whatever it is?

    1. Halfmad

      Re: Why "The independent charity's..."?

      Most charities,especially larger ones get paid by the government for specific tasks. You don't really think charities these days are funded by tin rattling? Most are basically service providing businesses.

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Why "The independent charity's..."?

      Quite. Have a look at their declared funders. It is a diverse group (Universities, through PWC and Parliament). Just doing the very basic numbers, I wonder how they can possibly have funded anything other than an opinion piece. Just wondering.

      1. Smooth Newt

        Re: Why "The independent charity's..."?

        Quite. Have a look at their declared funders. It is a diverse group (Universities, through PWC and Parliament). Just doing the very basic numbers, I wonder how they can possibly have funded anything other than an opinion piece. Just wondering.

        Whilst they get at most several £10ks from some of those, you may have missed the para at the top which says "The majority of the Institute for Government’s funding comes from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. For 2016-17, the Institute received a core grant of £3.5 million from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation towards our charitable work.". Their 2015 accounts have a forward signed off by "By Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Founder of the Institute and Chair of Governors". He was Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Science & Innovation for a decade under Blair.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Oh dear. Yet another report that's the wrong way round.

    You need someone (and they'd better be pretty senior) to realize something needs changing.

    Then they need to work out what needs changing and how.

    IT is a tool for that, not a reason to change.

    When people talk of Billion £ changes you're talking about whole departments changing what they do and how they do it.

    Root and branch.

    IT is the 0.1% of that process.

  6. Colin Bull 1

    Low hanging fruit

    I deferred my state pension for a year. I had a letter with a number to call when I am ready. Call the number. Message states you can do this online. Go online find that I must get a Pension gateway authorisation as well as my Gov.UK gateway auth code and I also have a verify system ID. So rather than wait a week for a letter to be posted I phoned back and waited for 10 minutes to be answered and then have a 25 minute telephone call.

    When you already have a gov gateway ID why is Online not online. Why go through the rigmorole of mailing an auth code?

    I reckon there is 250mill savings straight away.

    And do not get me started how an inept employer changed some elses address for mine at HMRC and then sent an employment statement AND a refund cheque in my name with NO verification.

    ICO are still chewing on that one but initial feedback is they can see no problem.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Stevie Silver badge


    Prediction: No it won't. Real world issues will delay project and inflate costs by 500% before the project is cancelled.

    Why not just ask Boris for some of the EC savings that fall out of his arse every day since the Brexit referendum?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    UK government could save £2bn by 2020

    They could, but they won't. When was the last time any gov IT project came in on time, on budget and delivered what was promised?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our local hospital is going paper-light

    They print around 8 million sheets of A4 each month, the cost savings relating to paper, transcribing written notes to electronic system etc are likely to be fairly large. However they haven't declared any of this centrally as they know the budgets will be cut.

    I don't know how accurate central figures are as locally they're being fudged as much as possible to keep money for services, you know operations and medicine. As much as middle managers in the NHS get stick, the local ones tend to earn their pay keeping the central ones at bay!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Our local hospital is going paper-light

      And this is where the government (and large organisations in general) struggle.

      If everyone keeps their little empire intact as they are asked to save money, eventually the asking stops and those at the top demand cuts. If still nothing is found, the cuts are usually forced upon the unsuspecting/politically inept/less important. Usually merit is not considered or valued in this process.

      IT isn't a solution in and of itself - while I have no doubt that money could be saved with well implemented IT systems within government, the same applies to well thought out policies, well managed departments, well implemented procurement, well killed consultants/experts etc

      Of those options, I'm only confident in being able to kill consultants/experts delivering any benefit, not because I'll necessarily get it right but at least it's a move in the right direction and it will hopefully encourage the others to improve...

  10. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Title Correct

    Report finds UK gov could waste £2bn by attempting to modernise IT and failing.

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: Title Correct

      Nah, 2bn is the saving - the cost to achieve half of that will be at least 25bn. The other half of the savings will be eaten up by "avoiding job losses." Because losing civil service jobs is bad mmm'kay?

  11. Kay_terra

    "there is a risk that digital teams will continue to be viewed as website designers, brought in only at the very end of policy design processes"

    If it looks like a shit, smells like a shit and feels like a shit, don't be surprised when I turns out to taste like a shit.

    After 4 years of the misfortune of working in departments, GDS really were nothing other than overpaid website developers. When we tried to get them engaged at strategic stages, they rattled their MacBook air and muttered 'Cloud' every so often before retreating to their beanbags and tweeting about obstructive departments no understanding 'Digital'.

    The idea that GDS has a strategic overview of Government is about as plausible as the notion that Cabinet Office can deliver an ID&V for the whole of Government. They really don't have the skills, leadership or capability to drive strategic change ... unless the change is to how they design websites.

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