Local Public Data Panel – Tenth Meeting 29 September 2011
Minutes and Actions
Panel: Professor Nigel Shadbolt (Chair), Tim Allen, Roger Hampson (London Borough of Redbridge), Chris Taggart (Openlylocal.com), Janet Hughes (London Assembly), William Perrin (Talk About Local), Nick Aldridge (Mission Fish), Colin McManus (for Jos Creese - Hampshire County Council), Emer Coleman (London Assembly); Pete Lawrence (Cabinet Office); Dennis Skinner (Local Government Group), Ex Officio: Shehla Husain (DCLG).
Apologies: Baroness Hanham (DCLG), Dave Smith (Sunderland City Council), Liam Maxwell (Director of ICT Futures, Cabinet Office ).
Other Attendees: Julian Mund (CIPFA), Steve Peters (DCLG), Julie Stephenson (DCLG),
Secretariat: Philip Worsfold and David Plant (DCLG).
Item 1: Welcome, Introductions and Minutes
Dennis Skinner was welcomed as the Local Government Association representative. Tim Allen would continue to attend Panel meetings.
Minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
Item 2: Transparency Board Update
Nigel Shadbolt updated on latest from the Transparency Board.
- The Open Government Partnership had been launched in New York at the UN Assembly. The UK would co-chair this partnership in 2012.
- A 5% ‘set aside’ rule had been introduced on distribution of aid by the Department for International Development to ensure better production of open data in relation to these contracts.
- New sector panels were now underway mirroring the LPDP model.
There were parallels between increasing transparency of aid and the localist agenda. For example, an app had been developed to make the Nigerian budget more transparent for citizens http://www.yourbudgit.com/
It was essential not to ignore the needs of users to help exploit the open data being released. Very small amounts of money could go a long way in this regard.
Item 3: Cabinet Office Consultations
- The Cabinet Office were seeking to maximise the number of responses to both ‘Making Open Data Real’ and ‘Public Data Corporation’ consultations.
- Around 1000 organisations had been approached with further debates planned during October and November.
Making Open Data Real
Panel Members made the following observations.
While the Government should help drive the release and intelligibility of data it was not its job to build apps. Data journalism provided some insights but was limited – so the need to make data useful for people was under represented in the consultations.
Simple instructions were needed to ensure public bodies got on with ensuring open data was available, particularly as the main beneficiaries would be people running public organisations themselves.
There needed to be a greater appetite to instruct collection and provision of data through contracts. For example, the requirement to produce open data at the point of procurement of Government IT systems. Unless there were clear requirements to make data available it was unlikely strategy objectives would be reached.
The Panel’s, and others, previous work on the open data ecosystem usefully played into next stages of the strategy.
Action: The views to be conveyed to Transparency Board [Nigel Shadbolt]
Public Data Corporation
The proposals were unclear.
HM Treasury had seemingly rejected the public investment case for making data openly available. The basis of such a decision was not transparent nor was the analysis used to determine the line between public value and public good. The analysis should be shared.
The current position seemed to contradict the Chancellor’s recent speech to Google Zeitgeist on the importance of open data for innovation and growth.
The value of different datasets would be variable. Clearer proposals were needed to show who would take these decisions, and how those decisions would be kept fair.
Governance of the PDC was poorly defined. Fair decision-making required representation on the PDC to represent the public interest. Ministers provided some representation but this should be strengthened. The starting point should be that none of the current executive board members of the trading funds involved should be included. This would provide a clear break from the current trading fund system.
It was far from clear the criteria that would be applied to make data an indispensable public good that should be charged for. It was therefore unrealistic to expect public officials to be able to adequately perform such a role.
Further work was needed to highlight the level of cross-subsidy within the public sector. Solid economic analysis was needed with evidence not supplied by the constituent organisations.
The first meeting of the PDC shadow steering group would take place on 10 October 2011.
Action: Collect peoples concerns and submit to PDC consultation. [Nigel Shadbolt to liaise with appropriate panel members to construct response]
Item 4 Making a Difference With Data
Steve Peters introduced proposals that would see the MADWD site continue while also seeking to make linkages with other DCLG-funded public data stores. The intention was to try to make better links between data publication sites and the MADWD objective to get it used through campaigns or to hold bodies to account. A funding envelope had been identified but specific proposals needed to be agreed. The Panel’s input was sought to help develop these ideas.
Action: Steve Peters to discuss options offline with Janet Hughes and William Perrin.
Item 5: Presentation from CIPFA: Local data collections, how it is presented and made available.
Julian Mund introduced CIPFA’s work as a charitable organisation to collect a wide range of comparable, fine-grained local data from local authorities, some of which was intended to be available as open data. This was collected through surveys of councils (www.cipfastats.net), analysed and presented back to subscribing local authorities as informative comparative data. Other services offered to councils included benchmarking clubs. This was a charged for service and contained a further level of granular data.
- It would be useful to clarify the licensing arrangements for data published by CIPFA. If not explicitly made available under an open license default copyright restrictions applied.
- It should be possible to reach a position whereby local authority returns to CIPFA, as public data, were made available under the Open Government License. This would allow for base data to be made available for other people to use.
- There was a tension between this model and that adopted by councils like Redbridge, which was undertaking to publish all non-personal data held by the council, and provide tools for other councils to do the same.
- Publication of the performance data would provide a further driver for action to be taken to address performance weaknesses and improve value for money.
- The data returns needed to be understood in the context of how public sector innovation worked. Greater openness would allow other bodies to further compare performance, copy and enhance their own approach to services.
- The CIPFA business model was not simply about collecting data – they added understanding and value to the raw data provided by councils. This was the service valued most by authorities. CIPFA was the authority on data standards. Opening up the data further would help stimulate the market in such services.
- Contract information was also essential for performance insight and value for money.
- The Local Government Group was also doing work on production of comparative performance data.
- David Walker had done some interesting work on the ‘get stats’ project, which could be a topic for future discussion.
Action: DCLG to clarify with CIPFA what existing data can be made openly available. Also explore potential to change the current model of data returns so that it better meets open data needs while still meeting CIPFA’s charitable purpose.
Item 6 Priorities
Localism did not respect structural or organisational boundaries. The Panel should examine the Neighbourhood Planning reforms and the need for a wide set of open data to make it a success. Better data was needed in order to challenge a presumption to develop.
Should look at the work of other sector boards and determine where the localist cross-over was not clearly being addressed. Transport and the Elgin project were suggested as future topics.
Birmingham Civic Foundation could be invited to present on the success of accessing council call centre data from sub-contractors and its potential uses.
Item 7: Any Other Business
Spotlight on Spend –Need to understand if there is a discrepancy between the open data published and that input into the Spikes Cavell propriety service.
Action: Chris Taggart to follow up.
The Panel’s position statement on FOI, public services and open data was agreed. Action: publish on Data.gov.uk. (Done http://bit.ly/pDFRBd)
The Panel commended Steve Peter’s work to develop visualisations using a range of open data sources.
Openly Local was taking over the PlanningAlerts service.
Action: The Cabinet Office should provide a further update on securing ALB data.
Date of Future Meetings:
Monday 14th November – 11-1pm
Tuesday 17th January
Tuesday 13th March