Liam Maxwell leaving Government Digital Service – but staying in Whitehall

Government CTO to step aside and take on new role joining up disparate digital initiatives

Liam Maxwell is departing the Government Digital Service after four years as the civil service’s chief technology officer – but he will stay in government in the newly-created post of national technology adviser.

Maxwell was appointed to the CTO role – which effectively made him the government’s most senior IT official – in 2012. Since then, he has established the Common Technology Services group, aimed at ironing out common frustrations with tech faced by officials, and developed the government’s Digital Marketplace, a single portal for public sector organisations to get hold of cloud technology and staff for digital projects.

Maxwell’s new role will, according to the GDS, involve joining up government technology policy across the Cabinet Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Number 10.

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GDS said Maxwell would also lead a new “National Technology Council” to advise government on long-term tech strategy, as well as “promoting and supporting digital industry in the UK and internationally”.

The CTO role will be filled on an interim basis by Andy Beale, the current director of the Common Technology Services team, with GDS executive director Stephen Forshew-Cain saying that the CTO job would be open to competition with Maxwell departing “over the coming weeks”.

Maxwell’s new job of joining up disparate digital initiatives comes after DCMS minister Ed Vaizey – who the Cabinet Office said would work “closely” with Maxwell – told MPs that he did not believe government was “coordinated enough” on digital.

“There is a piece of work to be done on making sure the government has a holistic view of the digital initiatives each department is taking,” Vaizey told the culture, media and sport select committee.

A long-awaited government-wide digital strategy is, however, not expected to be published until after June’s referendum on the European Union.

In a statement detailing the changes, Maxwell said he had been brought into government to “reshape the technology landscape”, moving from “silos to common technology”.

He added: “We’ve injected a huge amount of talent into the tech leadership of government – the government is now one of the most exciting places to work in tech. With a strong team, and a great deputy in place, the work of fixing the problem is well underway. And we’ve saved £3.5bn, money that has gone from admin costs into the delivery of frontline services.

“I’m really excited by this new challenge and the opportunity to further embed the work that is making the UK the number one place to invest in Europe. We have the skills, the infrastructure and the know-how to make our economy the most connected, the most attractive and the most digital in the world. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Foreshew Cain also paid tribute to Maxwell, saying the CTO – who, before joining the civil service, held a number of private sector IT consultancy roles and set up the computing department at Eton College – had led “by example”.

He wrote: “On behalf of everyone at GDS, I want to say very clearly: thank you Liam. You’ve worked extremely hard to make a difference, armed with your constant refrain of ‘Yes, but what is the user need?’

“That’s the question all civil servants should be asking, all the time.”


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