Spending Review – Is Lack of Comment About Crown Commercial Service Significant?

The Spending Review last week may have been good news for the Police and recipients of tax credits, but it was bad news for wannabe buy to let investors and possibly for the Crown Commercial Service. Overall, Cabinet Office has lost around 25% of its funding outside GDS (see below). “Cabinet Office will make efficiencies in its corporate services, finding savings in HR, Finance and IT services and rationalising headcount".

One surprise was significant additional funding – “£282 million of resource funding and up to £90 million of capital funding by 2019 to 2020” for the Government Digital Services (GDS), to pay for a “series of cross-government digital and property programmes that will deliver savings and improve services such as GOV.UK Pay, a new and simpler way to pay the government”. There will also be“a new way of delivering digital services, Government As A Platform ... a common set of core systems that enable government departments to share digital services, technology and processes”.

Has GDS really delivered step change in government services, or has it been largely smoke and mirrors with a jolly good PR machine? Talk to different people on the inside and you get different opinions. So let’s hope John Manzoni is going to hold GDS to account for delivering against this generous budget!

The note from Cabinet Office also refers to additional funding for the National Citizen Service, and for Social Impact Bonds. The Government Property Unit “will deliver a new property model to own and manage the central government estate, with departments paying market-level rents for freehold assets they own. £31 million of funding for One Public Estate will support local authorities to use their assets more effectively”.

But mention of Crown Commercial Service is there none. Not a sausage. However, before we jump to conclusions about cuts, we need to remember that CCS is now a Trading Fund, which last year basically broke even – their revenues from suppliers and their client public sector organisations covered their costs. So cuts in costs will only help Cabinet Office’s overall position if it does not damage revenues – and that is assuming that any surplus made by CCS goes back into the Cabinet Office pot.

It is interesting though that there is no mention of the organisation in the various official publications. Is that significant? Well, with Bill Crothers departure, it may mean that CCS is basically under review, hence the lack of any public statement. However, as we reported recently, it looks like there may be some headcount reductions to come, along with more recruitment to fill key roles perhaps.

Other departments have taken big hits to their budgets, and no doubt some procurement functions will suffer along with their colleagues. Department for Transport takes the biggest hit of all, down 37% by 2021 – let’s just hope they remember the West Coast Rail contracting fiasco and maintain some procurement capability in that area!

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