Never mind bungled Universal Credit rollout, Maude wants UK to be 'most digital' gov by 2015

All a question of fringe benefits, we suppose

Francis Maude

Just one day after Francis Maude labelled the bungled deployment of Universal Credit - the all-in-one replacement for the benefits system - as "lamentable", the Cabinet Office Minister has been trumpeting that the UK could be "the most digital government" in the G8 by next year.

Maude made the claim on Thursday when his office announced plans to put Brits' driving records online.

He said that the Cabinet Office expected "to save at least £500m from IT spend this year, on top of the £500m we saved from government's IT spend last year and £250m the year before".

The minister also borrowed the same sort of cherry-picking methodology last brazenly used by his colleagues in the Ministry of Fun*, which made narrow assertions about having the "best" broadband in some parts of Europe by 2015.

He said he hoped that the UK would be the "most digital government" among the G8 nations by next year.

The Cabinet Office claimed that the government was "on track" to save £1.2bn in taxpayer money by next year, adding that the figure would balloon to £1.7bn each year after the - yes, you guessed it - General Election. Those savings, it said, would help "pay down the deficit".

Maude, meanwhile, couldn't resist taking a dig at the opposition Labour Party by saying that the Tory-led government had inherited a digital offering that was "limited at best and government IT was a byword for disaster."

He confessed that "challenges" remained, which is perhaps just as well considering that he was fresh from a TV interview he which he gently chided his Cabinet chum Iain Duncan Smith for a "pretty lamentable" performance on the Universal Credit programme.

"There was a lot of money wasted in the very poor implementation of the project over its first two years and this is very regrettable," he told ITV News.

Maude also highlighted a split of opinion between his office and Duncan Smith's by declining to personally back the Department for Work and Pensions' latest approach to the rollout of Universal Credit that has effectively frozen out involvement of the CO's Government Digital Service team - who are the people behind the re-branding of Directgov.

In December, IDS confirmed to Parliament's Work and Pensions select committee that £40.1m in IT assets had so far been written off, following a series of embarrassing failings with the deployment of the technology underpinning Universal Credit.

Maude repeatedly told ITV News that "I support what the government collectively agreed."

Late last year, the Cabinet Office admitted that despite the GDS having designed a criminal record checking system for the Home Office, Theresa May's department had decided to abandon that in favour of technology that now looks likely to be built in-house by HM Passports Office.

It also confirmed a delay to its plans to move government agencies and arm's-length bodies over to the GOV.UK website early this year due to "resourcing" problems.

But, at least Britain might possibly maybe have the "best" digital government among the G8 hotshots by 2015 ... ®

*New to The Reg? It's the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) - ie, the "fun" ministry...

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