Back

Blogs

Global Chaos as Microsoft Outage Disrupts Critical Services

View All

Case Studies

Securing Cyber-Physical Systems for a Defence Manufacturer

View All

Upcoming Events

LEMA Summit 2024

View All

Webinars

UK Parliment image - BEIS reshuffle

Thoughts

BEIS breakup: Missions, priorities and the need for vision

8th Feb, 2023

As government reshuffles go, yesterday’s announcement for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was a refreshingly drama-free example of Westminster’s favourite pastime. The BBC reported yesterday’s changes as more of a “refit” than a reshuffle.

Presenting the case for change to deliver on his priorities, the PM set out the reorganisation of three significant government engines into four new departments:

  • Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
  • Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)
  • Department for Business and Trade (DBT)
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

New departments that drive greater focus on energy and net zero, and science and technology are anticipated to bring positive change. These are areas where the UK leads in the international playing field – and should therefore deliver economic growth. However, these kinds of changes within an administration face a high bar for success. As the Institute for Government has shown, changing government departments has pros and cons. It is notoriously difficult to do well and expensive to do at all.

Yet how this reorganisation has been presented, at least on paper, should offer hope. A single document has set out a rationale for the changes. A distinctive mission, initial priorities and the clear leadership behind each of the new four departments has established a positive precedent. This should provide everyone with a head start. Time has been saved by cutting through the uncertainty that would have resulted in weeks of discussions between ministers, senior officials and the rest of Whitehall trying to explain why their department exists and their priorities.

What challenges will the new government departments face?

A reorganisation serves to highlight the challenges that the new departments will face, particularly when it comes to the online world.

Three major pieces of digital legislation – online safety, data protection and digital information, and digital markets – now fall to DSIT. As does the challenge of working out how these new frameworks should fit together. While DSIT now has a priority to “put public services…at the forefront of innovation”, it remains unclear about how they will drive the data and digital transformation across Whitehall. Let alone industry. Supporting science & technology is one thing, embedding it within public services is a completely different challenge. Is this finally the time for real innovation to lead the way?

As ever, the key issues that Whitehall deals with do not respect departmental boundaries. The glacial pace of government in some of these areas only underlines that challenge. Alongside the reorganisation, No10 now needs to set a clear strategy not only for how these departments should practically work together, but also with the rest of Whitehall.

If successful, this could be truly transformational and help us to move away from simply having a successful tech sector, to a successful tech-enabled economy. Across Gemserv’s work in energy, Net Zero and public services, our clients are realising how interconnected the digital fabric needs to be to enable the change we want to see. We are helping them not only see what’s possible but how to get there too.

Want to know more? Email bd@gemserv.com.

Authors