The Prime Minister’s Office has put the brakes on the publication of the government’s much anticipated, and much delayed, Transformation Strategy.
According to sources, Number 10 has offered no indication of when the strategy may be published – despite it having been promised since the end of last year.
Originally set to be released under the title of the Government Digital Strategy, diginomica/government last week outlined a leaked document that saw the Cabinet Office broaden its focus to ‘transformation’ of the public sector.
The strategy was delayed until the after the EU Referendum, but it has consistently been promised that it would be released by the end of 2016.
Politicians have been asking questions about the publication of the strategy for months now, with the Parliamentary and Science Committee stating back in June that it should be published “without further delay”.
It’s particularly pertinent since the Government Digital Service – which has been brought under new leadership in recent months – was allocated £450 million in the November 2015 Spending Review.
One source said to diginomica/government that it was rumoured that the delay was due to a lack of funding to support GDS director general, Kevin Cunnington’s plans to bring the academies programme out of the Department for Work and Pensions and scale it up across the Civil Service to support new digital skills.
According to the source, the DWP’s Permanent Secretary agreed the plans, but the Cabinet Office doesn’t have the funding to support the existing academies programme, let alone increase it in size – citing a lack of support from the centre for the initiative.
If true, this is disappointing, given Cunnington’s recent comments to diginomica/government regarding the plans for the academies. In an interview with diginomica/government last week he said:
We brought the academies over from DWP. DWP trained roughly 3,000 of their own staff in these academies over the last two years. We’re going to double that number and train 3,000 civil servants a year going forward.
[That] gets us over that obstacle of not having enough skills within departments to do the things we might want to do. The academy is definitely cross-government.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The strategy will be published in due course.”
This is very disappointing if true. Whilst I was fairly critical of the Transformation Strategy in the form that we saw it, it has now been over a year since it was due. Yes, we have seen a shock in the EU referendum and yes we have a new government in charge – but neither of those things should really impact the changes required across the Civil Service and the public sector at large. And even if they did, can’t the strategy be updated accordingly?
Equally, if the funding isn’t coming through for up-skilling the Civil Service – that’s a serious problem for GDS and shows a lack of commitment from Number 10. And is counter to the recommendations recently outlined by the National Infrastructure Commission.
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