Cabinet Office targets £1bn-a-year savings through new efficiency pilot

Department will trial project which aims to modernise, automate and digitise government processes
The plan includes moving from physical signatures to e-signatures. Image: Adobe Stock

By Tevye Markson

07 Mar 2023

The Cabinet Office hopes to save the government £1bn per year through a new scheme which will modernise and automate services.

The department has been awarded £500,000 from the Evaluation Task Force’s Accelerator Fund to trial a project which aims to save money by shifting services to digital channels, reducing paper use and automating processes.

Improvements could include the replacement of physical signatures with e-signatures; using electronic notifications via channels such as SMS and social media, instead of paper; and using phone-bots, the Cabinet Office said.

The department has estimated this could end up delivering savings of £1bn across government annually. The trial is separate to the government's efficiency and savings review, announced in November's Autumn Statement.

The scheme is one of four projects awarded a total of £1,285,000 from the Evaluation Accelerator Fund this year, in the second round of funding. The schemes will test and develop new data-driven approaches to policy-making and evaluation.

The funding round had been set to award £2.8m – the remainder of the £15m fund, which handed out £12.2m to 16 projects last year.

Explaining why £1.485m had not been handed out, the Cabinet Office said it received 10 bids in the second round, but only four "met the standards of our rigorous selection process, achieving the right methodological standards, and aligning with the aims of the fund". The Cabinet Office will launch a third round of funding in April 2024 for the remaining pot of money.

Another of this year's winning bids, from the Department for Transport, will see £450,000 invested in exploring how mobile network operator data can be used to support initiatives targeting electric vehicle uptake and usage. The department hopes mobile data – including geographical spread, charging locations and distances travelled – can be used to help locate charging infrastructure where it is needed most, as well as providing a more comprehensive evaluation of electric vehicle usage across the country.

The bids needed to demonstrate how they would provide robust evidence of financial or efficiency savings.

Teams across government departments and the What Works Network – a group of government research centres set up in 2013 to ensure policymaking is backed up by robust evidence – were invited to place bids for ideas that would test and evaluate the impact of new policies or approaches to delivering public services.

Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said: “This is a government with innovation at its core and it’s vital that we channel that in the right way, ensuring decisions made by the government are data-driven.

“This funding will help teams drive innovation across government, creating the tools and data departments need to become more efficient and drive value for money. I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on public services.”

Last year, the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service was awarded £933,000 to tackle drug misuse in prisons by monitoring wastewater. Following successful fieldwork, the trial is due to launch later this year.

Another project, led by the College of Policing, was awarded £1.7m to help test new
ways of preventing violence against women and girls. The funding is now being used to further evaluate the use of Rapid Video Response for domestic abuse, having previously been trialled by Kent Police.

The Kent trial found that it had increased victim satisfaction, with the average wait time to speak to an officer reduced to three minutes, and estimated savings of between £119,000 and £190,000 per year. Rapid Video Response will now be replicated in other forces and different uses of the same technology will be tested to identify the potential of this approach across the country.

The schemes are funded by the Evaluation Task Force, a joint Cabinet Office and HM Treasury unit, which was set up as part of a commitment in the Declaration on Government Reform to embed gold-standard evaluation in government.

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