The case for a digital team at the centre of government needs to be made “again and again”, Mike Bracken has said, as the Government Digital Service chief gave his first interview since announcing his departure.
Bracken – who will leave his post as executive director of GDS to join the Co-Operative in September – told IT trade title ComputerWeekly of the “stresses and strains” of the post and said he had considered whether he wanted to “go around the block again” for another stint as head of the central digital team whose creation he oversaw.
“I asked myself that question and I thought if we can get the model set up and the business plan and business cases and the team to do it, does it need my leadership to take it round that block again? I don’t think it does.
“I think it needs my leadership to take it to the spending round and to constantly re-win the argument that we need a digital centre of government – that argument needs to be won again and again.”
Bracken also denied reports that the business case for GDS’s ambitious Government as a Platform (Gaap) project – which aims to implement a shared digital infrastructure across government departments – had been rejected.
The outgoing GDS chief said the GaaP case was still being considered ahead of the Autumn spending review, but he warned against reverting to what he called the “mandarin-led lands of authority” represented by a move away from a centralised digital function.
“I think that would be an incredibly regressive decision, and it would be disappointing,” he said.
Earlier this week it emerged that four more senior GDS leaders, including deputy director Tom Loosemore, would be leaving the almost 700-strong cross-government unit later in the year.
Current GDS chief operating officer Stephen Foreshew-Cain will now lead the unit, and the Cabinet Office has said Bracken will work with civil service chief executive John Manzoni to identify “the best structure for the next phase of digital transformation” before leaving Whitehall.