They are prone now to congratulating themselves on completing the transfer of all central government departmental websites to the single government domain, GOV.UK, and several non-departmental sites. Their congratulations are premature. hmrc.gov.uk, for example, lives on, thank goodness. A rare case of GDS’s discretion being the better part of valour.
There was internal dissent to the policy-centric GOV.UK approach identified by Liz Fisher. Jeni Tennison argued that destroying departmental identity involved losing something valuable. Judging by the comments on her thoughtful blog post, her objections were slapped down, rather than refuted, and she left GDS.
A new central commissioning team should take responsibility for the overall user experience on the government web estate, and should commission content from departmental experts. This content should then be published to a single Government website with a consistently excellent user experience.
The "new central commissioning team" is GDS. And the departments of state are to be reduced, in Lady Lane Fox’s view, to waiting to be commissioned by GDS to publish their policy.
She didn’t stop there. GDS should be able to countermand the law as well as the expertise of policy-makers wherever "user needs" are adversely affected as judged by GDS:
[GDS] SWAT teams … should be given a remit to support and challenge departments and agencies … We must give these SWAT teams the necessary support to challenge any policy and legal barriers which stop services being designed around user needs.
We all used to get emails from the individual departments bringing their press releases to our attention. Now those emails all come from GDS, GOVUK@public.govdelivery.com.
Unprecedented power is being centralised in GDS, whose qualifications – they are a team of website developers – are questionable. It’s a new world.