Bracken to join Co-op amid rumours of GDS downsizing

Mike Bracken, the outgoing boss of the Government Digital Service, has revealed that he is to take up a job with the Co-operative group.

Bracken announced on Monday that he would be stepping down from his post at the helm of Whitehall’s digital team at the end of September. The Cabinet Office said he would use his remaining time to help government consider the “best structure for the next phase of digital transformation”.

Bracken joined the civil service in July 2011 after a stint as digital development director for publisher Guardian News and Media, and his four years in Whitehall have been marked by a major shift in the government’s approach to digital.

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He oversaw the launch of GDS, a nearly 700-strong team at the centre of government which has unified departmental websites under the single GOV.UK platform and attempted to overhaul the way the civil service deals with big IT suppliers.

Writing on his personal blog on Thursday, Bracken said he would now be joining the Co-op’s executive board, serving as chief digital officer under chief executive Richard Pennycook.

He said: “There are many parallels between government and the Co-operative: The opportunity to work at scale, in a £10bn organisation, to chance to set a digital strategy and improve member experience; to work with inspiring colleagues all over the country; and to build strong businesses serving diverse audiences. It’s another fantastic challenge.”

The outgoing GDS boss said he would continue to advise international governments on their own digital projects, adding that while he was “so sad” to be moving on, he would be “leaving Whitehall and the mandarins, not the wider community”.

“With Richard’s support, I will be able to advise and help international governments and those in the emerging digital government and civic tech movements,” Bracken added.

It is not yet clear what the Cabinet Office has planned for the future of GDS. A spokesperson told CSW this week that the department would consider external recruitment for Bracken’s replacement.

But IT trade title ComputerWorldUK this week reported on concerns within the unit that it could be downsized “drastically” at the government-wide spending review in the autumn.

Colin Marrs

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