GDS loses third leader as open data champion Maltby confirms departure

Written by Rebecca Hill on 11 October 2016 in News
News

Paul Maltby, the Government Digital Service’s director of data, has become the latest in a line of senior leaders to leave the service.

Paul Maltby, who has worked on open data in the Cabinet Office since 2013, is leaving GDS - Photo credit: GDS

Confirming his departure, the Cabinet Office said Maltby would be leaving GDS when his loan from the Home Office ends at Christmas. It did not say where Maltby would be moving on to.

The news will be seen as another sign that the situation at GDS is worsening, as it follows on from the sudden departure of GDS chief Stephen Foreshew-Cain and GOV.UK Verify chief Janet Hughes during the summer.

Maltby joined GDS in September 2015, having previously held a similar role – director of open data and government innovation – at the Cabinet Office, where he was since 2013. He has previously worked at Leicestershire City Council and the think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research

His recent work has focused on the development of the data sharing elements of the Digital Economy Bill, which enters the public bill committee stage today.


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In a statement, Maltby said that he was “proud to have led the UK government’s world-leading activity on open data” and that GDS has “begun the hard work to go deeper to fix government’s data infrastructure and improve our data science capability”.

He added: “Data is the future of public service reform, and as I leave the great team here in GDS it is satisfying to see how the data agenda is increasingly driving reform in Whitehall and leading to a beneficial impact for citizens.”

His departure will be a blow for GDS’ new chief executive Kevin Cunnington – who was brought in to replace Foreshew-Cain – as he tries to make his mark on the organisation.

Both Cunnington and Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer have worked hard to allay fears about the future of the service, but both Maltby and Verify’s Hughes – who left just weeks after Foreshew-Cain – were well-respected members of the team.

Indeed, they were both name-checked in Foreshew-Cain’s list of capable leaders that would be able to “see the job through” in his departing statement. 

However, Matthew Trimming, founder of market entry specialists META, told PublicTechnology that Cunnington should use it as an opportunity to improve GDS' data strategy.

"With Paul moving on there is an opportunity for Cunnington to refocus, simplify and strengthen the data aspect of GDS’ responsibilities," he said. "A successful data strategy underpins any programme of digital transformation."

He added: "It is essential that Paul’s replacement has the gravitas to both refine the data strategy and GDS has the capability to support departments with the implementation of their specific data plans."   

Meanwhile, Gavin Freeguard, a research manager at the Institute for Government, said that GDS needed to act to appoint a successor quickly, especially "with so much recent change at the top of GDS".

He added: "Paul Maltby and his team have done a lot of good work in driving forward both open data and building the data infrastructure for a new generation of online services, and it’s vital GDS continues that work."

Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, echoed the call for GDS to find a suitable replacement, and praised Maltby's work at the service. 

“Maltby has been a motivated champion of the data agenda, including the importance of open data and data science. He has helped develop the data strands of the Digital Economy Bill, which include important clauses to help the Office for National Statistics access data from other parts of government,” said Shah. “It will be important for GDS to find another person who can maintain momentum in this area.”

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