Apps and websites: Maude sets out the future of public services

Student loan applications go online only as ministers look for £2bn savings

Student loan applications go online only as ministers look for £2bn savings

Some public services will only be available online as part of a government move to cut the cost of delivering them by more than £2bn a year.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced today that the public sector will favour delivering services via the internet.

"Quality online services can be the default solution for people needing government services," Maude said in a statement.

"Not only are services more convenient and cheaper, but they can be better and more personalised."

One of the first services to be delivered exclusively online will be initial applications for student loans in England, he confirmed.

Government is aiming to save more than £2bn annually by delivering public services via the web and apps

The government is aiming to save more than £2bn annually by delivering public services via the web and apps
(Photo credit: data.gov.uk/Christopher Osborne)

According to Maude, other services to be prioritised for online delivery will be car tax applications and Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), with the government aiming for 80 per cent of all JSA claims to be made online by 2013.

For businesses, Companies House intends that by 2013 firms should file documents such as accounts and annual returns online. And from 2012 HM Revenue & Customs will make changes requiring VAT registration to be carried out online as well as notification of a new business beginning trading.

The announcement coincides with the publication of a report by the government's digital champion Martha Lane Fox, which recommends that any transactional public service - such as renewing a driving licence - should be delivered through the government website direct.gov.uk.

In the report Lane Fox argues that...

...the government could cut £2.2bn from the annual cost of delivering public services if half of all transactions between the public and government are carried out online.

"Direct.gov should focus on improving service quality for citizens and delivering significant cost savings from service simplification and a shift to digital-only services," Lane Fox said in the report.

To help the public get online, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced today that it will invest £13m in UK online centres - government computing centres in England where people can learn IT skills and get internet access.

According to Maude, these centres are working with the Post Office on offering the public assisted access to digital services and special provision will be made for the minority of people who are unable to access services online.

Web, social network and mobile apps should also play a major role in service delivery, according to Lane Fox, with her report recommending that application programme interfaces for online government services are released to developers.

The report also analysed the government's commitment to reduce the number of government websites by two-thirds over the next six months, saying the reduction will cut the government's annual website spend from about £560m to about £200m. In his speech today Maude said further website closures would be made over the next year.

All government website content could be brought together under the single direct.gov.uk domain, the report states, with content available in channels, such as direct.gov.uk/business and direct.gov.uk/news.

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