back to article UK's GDS head Kevin Cunnington leaves to tell world+dog how (not) to do digital

The boss of the gaffe-prone Government Digital Service, Kevin Cunnington, is leaving to head the newly created International Government Service – presumably to tell the rest of the world how to talk a lot about digital while actually doing very little. Cunnington has held the post since 2016, following Stephen Foreshew-Cain, …

  1. Kubla Cant

    a substantial increase in traffic to the GOV.UK website

    Largely achieved by making it compulsory to use web filing for all sorts of things. Not saying that's a bad thing, but I'm definitely not filing VAT returns online for pleasure.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      and overseeing a substantial increase in traffic to the GOV.UK website, which now attracts more than 15 million unique visitors a week.

      A quarter of the population? Each week? What on earth are they hosting, p0rn?

  2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    If this...

    "The National Audit Office has repeatedly said it could not identify any of GDS's claimed savings with any certainty."

    If this is correct, then it begs the question as to how ANY of the financial business cases for any of these projects or initiatives were signed off in the first place considering they all use public cash.

    That said, some of the things they have "digital-ised" have made things much easier, and seem to work really well for me : online car tax, online self assessment, drivers license renewals, VAT and my passport renewal where I was able to take and upload my own photo was very efficient. These are just a few.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: If this...

      Agree with you about the passport renewal. I just did my self-assessment tax return last night, and also recently filed annual returns and accounts for Companies House. All done online, and all much preferable now to the old paper-based experience.

    2. Rob

      Re: If this...

      2 of those mentioned were actually delivered by the DVLA before GDS was even created. They would like to say that GDS was responsible but all they did was bolt them into gov.uk once it was launched. HMIRC dealt with online self assessment before GDS and gov.uk came along.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: If this...

      "The National Audit Office has repeatedly said it could not identify any of GDS's claimed savings with any certainty."

      If this is correct, then it begs the question as to how ANY of the financial business cases for any of these projects or initiatives were signed off in the first place

      That's an easy one. They're signed off on the basis of what they claim they're going to save. When they fail to make good on their claims it's too late. They can't be unsigned. The real question is, having had a project failed by the NAO, are those who signed it off allowed to sign off more? I'm sure they are - lessons been learned and all that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If this...

        If this is correct, then it begs the question as to how ANY of the financial business cases for any of these projects or initiatives were signed off in the first place considering they all use public cash.

        Personally, I think it's quite sweet that people still think government projects have written and signed off business cases! Because they certainly don't in the branch of government I work in!

        Anon. for obvious reasons!

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
    Coat

    Does he have a Cunnington plan?

    Coat. Where is it? I left it here somewhere.

    1. illuminatus

      Could you pin a tail on that coat and call it an easel*?

      *I know, that's deliberate.

  4. Keith Langmead

    Calculating savings

    "GDS's estimate of savings is heavily dependent on avoided costs in departments. Estimates of avoided costs are high, based on rejected applications in spending controls."

    If the savings are based partly on rejected applications, does that include every rejection even if a single project has had more than one rejection? After all, surely if a department has a need for something a rejection will just result in them reviewing it and trying again, it may not result in the need being abandoned.

    So I'm designing a system to fix issue x. I submit request 1 which costs £10m and it's rejected. Issue x still needs fixing, so I review things and submit request 2 which costs £10m. Again that's rejected. Request 3 goes through successfully with a reduced cost of £5m. Now by their calculations, have they saved £5m, £10m, £15m or £20m?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Calculating savings

      I saved a billion quid today by rejecting my own plan to build a 25storey new office building for my team.

      I can save 10x as much after coffee by also rejecting plans for the same building in 10 different colours

      1. PM from Hell
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Calculating savings

        I think you've made an error in your estimating technique, you'll only save twice as much as the lessons learnt in the first build, coupled with the economies of scale by building another 9 office blocks would result in a 90% cost reduction of the further 9 buildings.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    His legacy is secure

    As the man who mandated 18pt Comic Sans as the default font on Govt. web-sites

  6. Going Going Gong
    FAIL

    WHAT HAS HE ACTUALLY DELIVERED????

    .....................So lets see, PAC session on Verify is damming, heaps of remedial actions fall to Cunnington, he can never deliver!....and he's shunted into a made up role he was already doing with GDS!

    £I billion of savings? Really, is that GBP or Sudanese Pounds?

    exactly how? everything was implemented prior to him being kicked out of DWP, and dumped into GDS probably because it's a little too embarrassing to fire a Director General. He left behind a mess.

    Someone needs to really look into his 'Digital' credentials. Perhaps through one of his Seven Lenses of transformation. Yes I work in a big department, some great people (whats left still) in GDS. But all we've had is 'showboating' in the form of Kevin bouncing around the country saying that we are all transforming together, actually we departments are all presenting out transformations and GDS haven't transformed a thing since 2016.

    As for Academies? Well Agile Centres have been around since the Eighties! nothing new, and from what i've seen, very basic and stuff we've been doing since 2014.

    I hope GDS gets a proper Leader this time, someone who knows what to do and does something that actually takes us forward, delivers rather than stroke the ego of an OBE Wannabe.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dangerous names

    Whilst consulting on a project with GDS involvement I did mistype Kevin Cunningtons name in a document. This got through several document reviews before being issued to mass hilarity from several people who had worked directly with him.

    The consensus opinion then was that if GDS couldn't turn GOV.UK Verify around by the end of 2017 GDS itself was doomed. There's been no turn around and Cunnington has now fled the sinking ship absolving himself of any involvement in GOV.UK Verify. Gov.UK Verify is to be cut loose in 2020 and needs to become self funding there's been little or no take up for additional services since I was directly involved in 2016 and the lack of definite low per-transaction costs has lead potential GOV.UK Verify services to head to the private sector where suppliers are offering id verification services at guaranteed levels of cost much lower than the lowest estimate by GDS.

    I did work with some very good people at GDS and wonder where they will turn up next.

    A.C. as I'll inevitably end up working on central government projects again at some point.

    Using GOV.UK Verify's 'brand name' has become like a nervous tic after the first few document reviews from GDS who were obsessed by branding that nobody else gave a t*ss about.

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