Amongst all the Brexit chaos that continues to consume Parliament, the Treasury has ploughed ahead with its short term Spending Round, which commits to an increase in funding for departments until the (delayed) multi-year spending review takes place in 2020. Chancellor Sajid Javid confirmed funding for a number of ongoing, or already announced, digital projects across a number of departments and agencies.
Javid said that the government is “turning the page on austerity and beginning a new decade of renewal”. The Chancellor placed an emphasis on boosting the UK’s productivity and equipping Britain with ‘scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs’.
Brexit will allow us to reshape the British economy and reaffirm our place as a world-leading economic power.
We’ll have the opportunity to design smarter, more flexible regulation. Or to cut red tape that stifles innovation.
We’ll be able to replace inefficient EU programmes with better, homegrown alternatives.
We won’t be able to afford everything, and we’ll need to prioritise investment in policies that deliver real productivity gains and boost economic growth in the long term.
Whilst there were very few unknowns in the Treasury’s announcement, the spending round did highlight a number of existing digital priorities for the government in the short-term.
Digital and technology investments
Some examples of settlements with departments that focus on digital, technology or technical skills, include:
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - the department has secured a 4.1% increase in real terms from 2019-20 to 2020-21. The review states that this will focus on “continued investment in the UK’s world leading digital economy to drive growth and innovation, with programmes to support the UK tech sector and help people to stay safe online”. It will also support the UK’s plans to implement full fibre broadband.
HMRC - continued funding to support HMRC’s ongoing transformation programme and future additional sustainable efficiency savings. This will continue the rollout and operation of Making Tax Digital for VAT, increase the uptake of HMRC’s digital services, maintain HMRC’s IT infrastructure and consolidate the HMRC estate into 13 large, modern regional centres by 2023.
Office for National Statistics - delivering on the promise of the Digital Economy Act and meeting Parliament’s expectations for improvements to the statistical system.
Department of Health and Social Care - additional funding to deliver the government’s commitment to upgrade outdated facilities and equipment in 20 hospitals – sharing an £854 million pot of new funding. This is alongside a £1 billion boost to NHS capital spending in 2019-20 to allow existing upgrades to proceed and to tackle the most urgent infrastructure projects. A £250 million of investment in artificial intelligence from 2020-21, which aims to help solve some of healthcare’s toughest challenges, including earlier cancer detection and discovering new treatments.
Department for Education - £400 million in 2020-21 for Further Education, which the Treasury says recognises the “vital role” of this sector in delivering the skills needed in the UK. This includes £190 million to increase core funding for 16-19 year-olds at a faster rate than core schools funding, and £210 million in targeted interventions such as high-cost programmes, English and Maths resits, T Levels, the Advanced Maths Premium and workforce investments.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - the government has committed to increasing levels of research and development (R&D) to at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027. The Treasury has said that in the Autumn the government will set out plans to significantly boost public R&D funding, provide greater long-term certainty to the scientific community, and accelerate its ambition to reach 2.4% of GDP.
Very little in terms of the unexpected or additional insights into digital plans for government over the coming years. But, then again, this is just a short term spending round, not a full strategic spending review. That being said, it is interesting to note that there was no mention of the Government Digital Service or its ambitions…