Maude, who helped create the GDS during his time as Cabinet Office minister in 2011, says keeping the two organisations separate creates “a largely artificial split between functional leadership and delivery”.
The responsibilities of the GDS were split when the government created the CDDO in early 2021 as a strategic centre for digital, data and technology (DDaT) across government.
In his review, Maude says the “lack of a unified organisational structure degrades the strength of leadership that can be provided by the centre, and absorbs significant amounts of officials’ time in brokering internal coordination rather than delivery.”
The review says GDS services such as Gov.uk Pay and Gov.uk Notify, which were created as a way to have common services that can be deployed cheaply and quickly across departments, are “more enthusiastically taken up by the wider public sector than by the national government entities for whom they were created”.
It says that GDS has to spend money and employ people to sell their services to central government. however, if a stronger mandate was in place, backed by effectively operated spend controls, it “would automatically deliver substantial savings while delivering more joined up and holistic services to citizens.”
Alongside his recommendation that GDS and CDDO should be merged, Maude says heads of the principal cross-cutting functions of government, including digital, should be appointed at permanent secretary level, and that it will usually make sense to recruit them through an external search.
“It is in the nature of these roles that they will often need to challenge existing customs and practices,” the review says.