Editorial

Cabinet Office: Whitehall skills shortage is costing the taxpayer

Because of a shortage of civil servants with the appropriate IT skills, GDS had to rely heavily on interim staff during 2016-17, we now hear

Posted 27 September 2017 by

Just-published 2016-17 Cabinet Office full year accounts point to some of the challenges central government’s having to face as it pushes for digital transformation.

The data shows that Civil Service IT capability shortfalls obliged GDS to radically up the number of temp IT contractors it employed in the period, up from £28m in 2015-17 to a hefty £44m – a 50%-plus rise.

“Because of a shortage of civil servants with the appropriate IT skills, [GDS’s] Common Technology Services and Government as a Platform programmes have had to rely heavily on interim staff during 2016-17,” confirms the audit.

Lack of Whitehall capability also pushed up the bill for consultancy at the heart of government, rising a million pounds in the period (to £10m).

“The… increase in spend on consultancy can largely be attributed to GDS,” says the statement.

“During 2016-17, it developed and began implementing a common taxonomy and career framework for digital, data and technology [DDaT] professionals within government, the aim being to improve the recruitment, development, and retention of staff in these professions.”

To do this, says the Cabinet Office, GDS had to take on external consultants “because it lacked the in-house capacity and capability to deliver these products quickly”.

On the plus side, the Cabinet Office points to the continuing success of The Digital Marketplace, which broke a £2bn spending target well ahead of the original April 2018 deadline, as well as the overall GDS-driven ‘Government as a Platform’ push, which it says is still on target to deliver overall state bureaucracy savings of £425m in the 2015-20 timeframe.

The GDS team in charge of upping digital capability and the DDaT agenda spoke at the recent Think Digital Government conference.

Go here to find out what it sees as the next step in addressing these core issues in public sector IT.