Public Services Network compliance 'far too complicated', government admits

The government has promised to overhaul the ‘restrictive’ security regime for the Public Services Network (PSN).


The government has promised to overhaul the ‘restrictive’ security regime for the Public Services Network (PSN) after admitting that compliance is "far too complicated". 

PSN aims to create a single ICT infrastructure for all UK public sector organisations. The government hopes it will help to reduce the £2.5 billion the public sector spends on telecoms every year and enable more efficient, joined-up public services.

The Government Digital Service (GDS), in charge of the PSN programme since April, said that the last security audit was particularly challenging as the Cabinet Office took over the process from CESG, increased the scope of the audit and introduced new controls and regulations.

Many councils were initially refused connection to PSN and a handful did not make the compliance deadline at the end of March this year.

The security process, which decides who can and can’t access PSN, has been a long-standing bugbear of IT teams in local government, with a number of CIOs describing it as expensive, onerous and over-prescriptive.

The GDS said it has designed a new, simpler and more proportionate compliance process in response to the feedback.

The team said it has removed needless complexity from the ‘Code Template’. They have also simplified the Code of Connection - a set of mandatory requirements to be met before local authorities can join the network.

The Cabinet Office is currently conducting a “small-scale alpha” test of the new regime. It will use results from the trial to determine how quickly it can move to beta stage then rollout, but hopes full implementation will start “by the end of January”.

In a blog post on GOV.UK the team said the changes acknowledged security is “only one of the factors you consider when making decisions”.

Meanwhile it emerged this week that the government has pushed back the deadline for bids for the new PSN framework, dubbed ‘Network Services’, for a second time.

Bids for new contract, worth up to £2 billion, were originally supposed to be submitted by 4 December. This was pushed back to 11 December, and has now been delayed again, to 9 January.  

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which runs procurement for PSN, wants more time to answer clarification questions from suppliers about the framework, ComputerworldUK understands.

Image credit: iStock/stu99

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