Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to resign at next election

Colleagues, civil servants and analysts have paid tribute to the IT and digital reforms led by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, after he announced plans to retire yesterday.

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Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has announced plans to stand down at the general election in May 2015.

Maude, who has served in Parliament for 32 years and as Cabinet Office minister since 2010, has overseen the creation of the Government Digital Service, reforms to reduce and improve ICT spending and led work across Whitehall to digitise public services and open up public data.

During his tenure his department created the G-Cloud framework to drive cloud adoption in the public sector, oversaw modest growth in government spending with IT SMEs and set up reforms to improve digital skills in the civil service.

In a letter to his association chairman, Maude said his initiatives had “saved taxpayers £14.3 billion last year alone”.

He said: “We set up the Government Digital Service (GDS), now being copied in the United States and Australia, which has replaced hundreds of websites with the award-winning GOV.UK, moving services online and cutting the costs of government IT while hugely improving the service.”

“There is much to do – before the election and after – to ensure that the reforms are irreversible,” Maude added.

'Huge vision'

Speaking to ComputerworldUK in November, then-government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly said Maude had been “the longest serving Cabinet Office minister” and “the greatest reformer” to hold the post.

He paid tribute to Maude’s digital, commercial and project leadership reforms in the civil service.

“He has shown huge vision, strategy, perseverance and tenacity, to make sure that he’s followed it reform] through…there’s been great consistency in his tenure”, Kelly said.

He said Maude has a “very good relationship” with his officials, adding: “it’s evidence-based, he takes advice wisely, but he sticks to the strategic vision and a shared vision of what’s been set out in terms of reform in government”.

'Controversial' decisions

Georgina O’Toole, director at analyst house TechMarketView, struck a slightly more ambivalent tone.

She said: “There has been much good about what he has done. Government IT needed shaking up, on both the buy-side and the supply-side. But there have also been decisions made that have been controversial. Both the sustainability of the savings and the longevity of the reforms have been called into question.”

O'Toole added: “His unwavering commitment to changing government and supplier behaviours will be hard to match. Unfortunately Maude leaves before we have proof that the changes he has made will stand the test of time.”

Deserves 'a lot of credit'

A number of former civil servants told ComputerworldUK that Maude deserved recognition for his digital and procurement reforms.

“I think he’s been brilliant for digital, and history will judge him kindly for his impact on government communications too,” Tim Lloyd, former head of digital communications at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said.

“It’s hard to deny, he got some tough jobs done on digital, estates and procurement,” digital communications expert and former civil servant Steph Gray said.

Chris Yiu, previously head of digital government at Policy Exchange, said: “He deserves a lot of credit for making and protecting the space needed for the GDS to thrive."

Image © Flickr/Cabinet Office

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