Tax, pensions and visas shift online in UK government overhaul

Whitehall has announced which public services will be made available online by 2015, with a view to saving up to £1.7bn a year through reduced staffing costs.
Written by Sam Shead, Contributor

The UK government has revealed the public services that will be made available online as part of a strategy to save £1.7bn each year. 

By 2015 the government plans to offer online access to a tranche of services including tax self-assessment and applications for patents, visas, pensions and various living allowances. Each of Whitehall's seven biggest departments have chosen at least two major services that will be delivered online, the Cabinet Office announced on Friday. 

Government will scale back face-to-face, phone and postal delivery of these services after these online channels go live. The Cabinet Office claims the shift to online delivery will save taxpayers up to £1.2bn by 2015, and £1.7bn each year thereafter. Reduced staffing costs will account for the bulk of the savings, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said, although public bodies will continue to offer alternatives to online access to these services.

The savings figure is an estimate that does not include the cost of switching these services over to digital delivery, or the potential savings from fundamental service redesign and back-end technology changes.

"Today we've set out exactly how we will make it easier for people to do things like apply for pensions and car tax online," said minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude in a statement. "As a result we will save people time, money and stress – while making the taxpayer savings in excess of a billion pounds and setting Britain up as a world leader." 

The government departments that will move services to digital delivery are HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Home Office and the Cabinet Office.

Work to redesign these services will begin in April 2013 with a view to putting them live by March 2015. 

The shift to online service delivery was set out in the government's digital strategy, which is being led by the Government Digital Service (GDS), as part of its digital-by-default campaign.

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