GDS confident on digital personnel resources as Brexit prep heats up

Agency’s boss Alison Pritchard says some parts of her organisation are ‘running hotter than others’ but believes there is enough expertise at her disposal

Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Government Digital Service interim head Alison Pritchard has said that some parts of her organisation are feeling the heat more than others in the run-up to 31 October, but insists there is sufficient capacity to handle the next looming Brexit Day.

Pritchard said preparations for year’s two previous target Brexit Days had given the organisation clear insight on what it was going to take for an “absolute deadline” of 23:00 on October 31.

“We’ve got pockets of the organisation that are running hotter than others because of the nature of EU Exit,” Pritchard said, citing head of GOV.UK Jen Allum’s team an example.

Pritchard, who was appointed to the helm of GDS last month following Kevin Cunnington’s departure, said the year’s earlier deadlines could be viewed as “rehearsals” for next month.

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“My former job was director of EU exit & transformation. I’ve got a team that’s leading very strongly on preparedness of digital systems generally across the piece,” she said.

“They all know that as we head towards 23:00 that you start to look at real ‘go live’ plans for each of these services that have been stood up and got ready, but where you haven’t been able to absolutely flip the switch until legal frameworks change and you want people to be using these services.”

A media briefing held against the backdrop of last week’s Sprint 19 conference heard GDS was expecting a  surge of traffic on GOV.UK in the coming weeks as people looked for the information they needed ahead of Brexit. 

Pritchard told the session that GDS had made preparations to buy-in additional expertise to support its work over the coming weeks, and had also been clear that key in-house staff had to get time off they needed ahead of the “end stages”.

“Will we be ready in terms of capacity? Yes.” She said. 

“We’ve also been able to progress things like the sharing of resource across departments through the clearing-hub model. That’s been tested several times now. That’s improving. And we’ve been able to find time to set up further contracts with industry to make sure that we can tap into capacity both in terms of individuals and at bench and team levels as well.

“From a digital perspective, I’m not overly worried about capacity. Am I worried about how people are feeling? I’m not complacent. I’m working with all the teams to make sure they’ve got effective planning in place to give key people time off so that they’re refreshed and ready for the end stages.”

Pritchard noted that while 31 October was talked about “a lot”, it was not the end of the work GDS would need to do if Brexit took place on that day.

“There will be plenty of ongoing work to support circumstances beyond that,” she said.

She added that she did not believe there had been an opportunity cost for the GDS in terms of other projects that would have been prioritised in different circumstances.

“I don’t look at it this way,” she said. “It’s been an accelerator for various different things; it really has pushed agendas on quite quickly.”


Sam Trendall

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