In a pre-election pop at the coalition, Labour has slammed Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude for the Government Digital Service's failure to meet even half of its digital targets for online services.
The GDS budget increased from £9.7m in 2011/12 to £23.3m in 2013/14, with spend on IT specialists rising to £7.9m over the last year, said Labour. In fact, its total budget was £58.4m for financial year ending March 2015.
Yet in that time, the GDS only managed to make nine of its 25 exemplar services live by the March 2015 deadline*, said the Zero-Based Review: Labour identifies government’s failure to meet digital targets report.
Lucy Powell, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “Despite spending on the Government Digital Service ballooning, Francis Maude has failed to deliver on his promise of 25 exemplar services being live by this March."
Last week the digital interface of the Common Agricultural Payments IT system, one of the biggest of the 25 "digital exemplar" transaction services, was put on hold after encountering serious IT problems.
But the majority of the exemplars are largely peripheral to the main workings of government, such as online apprenticeship applications and prison bookings. The real challenge will be the as-yet-untackled high-volume services, such as corporation tax, VAT and tax credits.
Labour also criticised the government for wasting money on a number of IT projects. These included writing off £56.3m developing a duplicate ERP system at the Ministry of Justice; £27m spent on online social security payments system MyBenefits Online, which was superseded by the introduction of Universal Credit; and the expected £663m write-off of IT costs under the failing Universal Credit programme.
However, it's worth remembering that Labour doesn't exactly have the best track record on IT itself, with a high number of major IT disasters happening under its watch – most memorably the failure of its £11bn National Programme for IT. ®
As of the time of writing, GDS had managed to get 13 of its exemplar services live, thereby achieving just over half of its target. They'd only managed a paltry nine by the time the Labour report was written, though.