Exodus continues at GDS

Michael Beaven, transformation programme director of the Government Digital Service, has become the latest digital leader to announce his departure from the civil service.

Beaven – who has been at GDS since the team was set up in 2011 – today said he had taken up post at private sector tech firm Methods Digital.

His departure follows a series of changes to GDS’s top team over the last month, the most high-profile of which was the announcement by executive director Mike Bracken that he would be moving to The Co-Operative group after four years at the helm of the unit.

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Announcing his new role in a post on the LinkedIn social network, Beaven reflected on a “tough but very rewarding” time at GDS and paid tribute to civil servants across Whitehall for embracing the digital agenda.

“No one had attempted anything like the breadth of change in government before and it is a testament to the civil servants, contractors and companies who worked so hard to pull off the achievements we did,” he said.

“And, I don’t just mean the GDS folk.  All the people across BIS, Home Office, Justice, Defra, DWP, HMRC, DVLA and Cabinet Office who went out on a bit of a limb and took some personal risk to deliver service simpler, clearer and faster […] So one final massive thank you to everyone I have worked with since 2011, it was a privilege to work with you all and we have achieved so much.”

Beaven’s new role takes him back to the private sector for the first time in four years. He previously worked as a consultant for Aston Beck and Consulting Stream.

During his time in the civil service, Beaven oversaw the the Digital Examplars programme, a cross-government bid to take 25 services commonly used by the public online-first.

The programme ended with 15 services, including voter registration and patent renewal, fully live. Nine remained in the propotype “Beta” phase, while one – making a claim for the Personal Independence Payment disability benefit – was still in the earlier “Alpha” phase at the scheme’s end.

“Digital core”

As well as Bracken himself, Beaven follows GDS deputy director Tom Loosemore; director of strategy Russell Davies; head of user research Leisa Reichelt; and director of design Ben Terrett out of the door. All announced their departures in August, with GDS chief operating officer Stephen Foreshew-Cain now stepping up to lead the unit.

Amid speculation that the unit could face a tough settlement in forthcoming government-wide spending review, Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock last month wrote to say that the team – whose achievements include the unification of all government websites under GOV.UK and a major shake-up of IT procurement practices – remains the “digital core of government”.

“I’m a huge supporter of GDS’s mission,” said Hancock. “GDS is the digital core of government and it’s helping the public sector deliver better digital services for less – essentially making sure that government ‘can do’ digital.”

In March’s Budget, the government announced that the remit of the GDS would expand from central government to cover local government.

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