Local Public Data Panel - 11th meeting 14 November 2011
Panel: Professor Nigel Shadbolt (Chair), Roger Hampson (London Borough of Redbridge), Chris Taggart (Openlylocal.com), Janet Hughes (Greater London Authority), Colin McManus (for Jos Creese - Hampshire County Council), Dennis Skinner (Local Government Association), Tim Allen (Visiting Professor, Birbeck), Conn Crawford (for Dave Smith, Sunderland DC), Ex Officio: Shehla Husain (DCLG), Pete Lawrence (Cabinet Office).
Apologies: Baroness Hanham (DCLG), Dave Smith (Sunderland City Council), Liam Maxwell (Director of ICT Futures, Cabinet Office ), Emer Coleman (London Assembly), Nick Aldridge (Missionfish), Will Perrin (TalkaboutLocal).
Other Attendees: Shane O’Neill (ELGIN), Robert Saunders (DCLG), Richard Wood (DCLG), Nick Bagshaw (DCLG).
Secretariat: David Plant (minutes) and Padma Juggapah (DCLG).
Items 2: Minutes of last meeting and Action Points Update
Minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
Progress on Action Points reviewed. Particular thanks to Janet for coordinating the Panel response on the Public Data Corporation. On Making a Difference with Data, Janet had met with Steve Peters before the meeting to agree a way forward.
Action: Janet and Steve to draft an update note on MAD with Data for Panel.
On the Panel’s position statement re Freedom of Information (FOI). This was being partially addressed in the Open Public Services White Paper. It was agreed it would be helpful to meet with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to discuss.
Action: Secretariat to set up meeting with MoJ.
Concern that Local Authorities might need more help in building open data into contracts, to protect FOI position. Might be helpful for Panel to provide template/ give guidance.
Action: Janet to put together sub-group to consider additional help to LAs on building open data principles into contracts. On Arms Length Bodies (ALB) data legacy, Pete accepted that Cabinet Office were not yet fully up to speed on this, but would soon be able to give it more time. Main responsibility though rested with Departments. Janet said it was a year since the Panel produced the ALB Guidance and wanted to see a list of ALB information datasets.
Action: Cabinet Office to provide report on progress against blog categories for each dissolved/transferred ALB. Panel to rate bodies according to greatest data legacy risk and importance, using traffic lights.
Item 3: Engaging with CEOs on data transparency (Shane O’Neill)
Shane O’Neill is Chair of ELGIN (Electronic Local Government Information Network), which provides details on road closures, roadworks, obstructions, events and other information for road users covering around 55% of England and Wales. The network uses automatic data feeds from participating local authorities to provide live roadworks information, and supplies an API to access the data freely. The difficulty has been to increase coverage. Shane has spent the last year looking for additional funding from government departments and local government, but the current climate has made this very difficult, particularly the uncertainties over the future landscape.
It costs each participating Local Authority (LA) about £7k per month. In seeking support from Chief Executives, it has been important to stress the financial benefits, rather than simply pushing the Transparency agenda. It is a way for LAs to efficiently fulfil a number of obligations under the Traffic Management Act. Shane has secured investment for a further year, but there is a danger if public investment is not available, the system may cease to be available as open data.
Shane then presented the case for engaging CEOs of Local Authorities. Transparency alone would not be a sufficient incentive. Open data had to address immediate challenges of reducing costs, enhancing participation and delivering better services.
Roger Hampson stressed the need for a more mature market in this area, not necessarily backing one horse. Government needs to be clear what must happen, produce a statement, and push for it to take effect.
Tim Allen stressed how commercially important a fully national roadworks system could be, with significant savings for road hauliers in planning routes to avoid roadworks.
Action: Nigel to invite Shane to join Sub-group, including Transport Sector Transparency Board representation, to look into this as a possible exemplar including considering the need for an industry agreed format and whether enforcing a schema would solve supplier problems.
Item 4: Update on PDC consultation (Pete Lawrence)
The Open Data Consultation received 470 responses, 250 substantive. The way forward would be outlined in the Autumn Statement on 29 November, with a summary of responses issued at the end of December.
The PDC Consultation received 290 responses, 117 substantive. The way forward is still under discussion – it is important to get the balance right as it sets the tone. The Autumn Statement will give dates for setting up the PDC. Summary of responses will be issued by the end of January.
Action: Request for CO to ensure publication of Transition Board Minutes from meeting on 25 October. [DN: Pete to take forward?]
Item 5: Policy by Wiki – Citizen Engagement (Nick Bagshaw)
DCLG is exploring how Policy by Wiki can complement policy development. Three areas are being considered –
1. Idea generation: seeking comments on small sub areas of the policy; leading to collaboration on the policy document itself.
2. DCLG’s Neighbourhoods Team will be looking at developing policy over the next 6 months through above categories, and
3. VCS Partnership Board: for idea generation for DCLG focus.
But the DCLG website is not really suitable for Policy by Wiki. This will be easier once government websites merge.
Pete Lawrence noted that Data.gov.uk had some functionality to support policy by wiki.
Roger Hampson agreed to send details of Redbridge “Schools wiki” to Nick.
Chris Taggart noted that non-government sites could get better responses e.g. hyperlocal sites or facebook, and that Will Perrin may be a helpful contact.
Janet Hughes noted GLA may have useful info, from their open service idea generation.
Item 6: Comparable Performance Data (Robert Saunders)
Important that comparable data is available so that citizens know how their local authorities are doing. Also important for accountability – Public Accounts Committee are very interested.
While at the moment there is a lot of data collected and there are benchmarking clubs, there are issues regarding availability and accessibility. So while the priority is to get the data out there, there is a role for central government in enabling better comparison.
LG Inform was set up to enable comparisons and benchmarking between local authorities, but is being developed to enable citizen access. CIPFA may also be able to contribute.
We would look to local authorities to clearly show –
Here is how we spend our money
Here is performance data
Here is a comparison site.
Further work is taking place with Redbridge on feasibility.
Nigel was keen to stress that any data must still follow the Public Data Principles and be machine readable, searchable format and open licence.
Action Point: Consider ongoing CIPFA role further at next meeting, and possible sub group.
Item 7: LA Spend on VCS (Richard Wood)
Need to establish what local government are spending on the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS). Currently working with LGA to explore definitions and produce practitioners guide. VCS Partnership Board to be used to help form definitions. Department of Health are also interested for establishing public health spend, as Public Health Grant due to move to local government next year.
Not only public interest, but political - need to know how VCS spending has increased/ decreased. Published spend data does not give the whole picture. Firstly it is not easy to match money to specific recipients, and secondly there are many benefits in kind e.g. free/subsidised rent, that need to be taken into account.
Some concerns expressed that working with the sector, may not necessarily result in what citizens want?
Item 8: Planning Future Meetings
Suggestions for next meeting
Action Point: Dennis Skinner to arrange representation from LG Inform to be invited to present.
Action Point: Secretariat to arrange for Birmingham City Council to be invited re “How to engage with LAs in a meaningful way – triggering evidence of economic, social and political benefits”.
Action Point: Roger and Tim to provide a paper for next meeting on benefits of transparency.
Roger said he would like to raise certain radical areas in the Pipeline, for discussion at next meeting.
Item 8: Any other business
David had been looking into the two forms of Unique Property Identifiers, to try to establish if they could be unified. Still further investigation needed.
Action Point: Secretariat to circulate paper on UPI’s before next meeting.
Shehla alerted Panel to forthcoming consultation on regulations to make parts of “The Code of recommended practice for local authorities on data transparency” legally enforceable.
Dates of Future Meetings:
Tuesday 17th January 2pm – 4pm
Tuesday 13th March