Property price-paid data for £50k??

I contacted the land registry about the 'price-paid' database for England and Wales from now (March 2011) back to 1995. They said it would cost a whisker under £50,000 to get the data.

How is that an open data policy? Considering that data is a matter of public record, its ridiculous to charge that much to access it.

Comments

Response to land registry question

Hi Adam,

Data.gov.uk passed your question on to the Land Registry, please see their response below, in full:

Thanks,

Phil

"Dear Sir,

I refer to your posting on 8 March 2011 which was passed to me.

I am replying on behalf of Land Registry. I am one of the lawyers in Corporate Legal Services.

You ask how Land Registry’s charging for price paid data is an open data policy. You also comment ‘that the data is a matter of public record, it’s ridiculous to charge that much to access it’.

First, it may be helpful if I explain what Land Registry does.

We are a non-ministerial government department, became an executive agency in July 1990 and a trading fund in April 1993.  

The availability of register information is now governed generally by section 66 of the Act  which provides for register information to be publicly available. This Act has consciously broadened the former provisions. The purpose of this was to ensure conformity with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This Act has, of course, made access to Government information even more universally available, but register information is made available under the Land Registration Act rather than the Freedom of Information Act and, unlike the latter, the Land Registration Act includes a charging code.

The information which is a matter of public record is the register of title, title plan and any document referred to in the register provided we hold a copy, or any document that is not referred to in the register that relates to an application, provided we hold a copy. This is available by completing the requisite forms and payment of a fee in line with the Land Registration Fee Order 2009.  Please see Public Guide 1 – ‘A guide to the information we keep and how you can obtain’. It can be downloaded from our website ww.landreguistry.gov.uk. Therefore information of public record is available according to the statutory framework.

However, we do already publish the House Price index (HPI) which is available free of charge. This provides the average residential property value in England and Wales and is a price index for the area. You can generate lists of average house prices in any area of England and Wales for any range of months since January 1995. The HPI is calculated by using Land Registry's own Price Paid dataset. You can obtain this from our website and is available in line with the open data policy.

As regards, Price Paid information, under the Land Registration Act 2002 section 105, Land Registry is able to pursue additional commercial opportunities relating to the provision of land and property information, consultancy/advisory and training/education services relating to land registration. Furthermore, one of Land Registry’s public objectives is to develop a broader range of services for property professionals, the public and others.

This means that Land Registry can (and is expected) to provide ‘add value services’. The Price Paid database and information provides data on the average prices and volumes of sale for all residential property in England and Wales. The dataset is updated monthly and  we have a standard contract which covers the re-use of this data. This means the data is available to customers provided they enter into a contract. We have several customers who regularly purchase this information.

The charging policy we adopt must follow Treasury guidelines. Our charges cover the costs of development, maintenance and ongoing supply plus a permitted return on investment. This is on a cost recovery basis. Our information shows that there is a market and demand for this information.

The detail of the charges is as follows. We license the data for an annual subscription plus a charge for each address bought:

(1) Annual subscription is £2,200 plus vat

(2) £0.008775 plus vat per address update supplied, for each product that incorporates the data (with a minimum payment of £100)

For customers who want to make ad hoc purchases we charge for the data they want to reuse on the basis of £0.0117 per address they take - this price has been calculated so that if they take the whole dataset on a monthly basis they will pay the same price as a subscribing customer.

The 1995 – 31 March 2000 was originally made available in Sept 2008 at the same row count fee as the rest of the data. We had very little interest, with only 4 of the 41 subscribers purchasing the back data.  Earlier this year we reduced the cost and now class this as a separate dataset. The charge is £10,000. We also decided to aggregate the 2000 -2005 data and offer this to existing subscribers of 2006 onwards data, and any new customers, at a reduced cost of £20,000. This is why the pricing is now:

1 Jan 1995 – 31 Mar 2000 inc  £10,000 plus vat

1 Apr 2000 – 31 Dec 2004 inc  £20,000 plus vat

1 Jan 2005 – 28 Feb 2011 @£0.008775 per row = £49,010 plus vat

I hope this fully explains the basis for the charges.  If you need anything further, please do not hesitate to contact me direct.

Yours faithfully,

Sushma Acharya

Assistant Land Registrar

Corporate Legal Services

Land Registry

Head Office

Trafalgar House

1 Bedford Park

Croydon

CR0 2AQ"

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plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

This is relentless. Must every single quango kick up its own fuss? From this letter, Osbourne needs to get a move on and start enshrining his policy talk in law.

I have been designing a rich, personalised advisory experience for potential new home owners. I don't have £80k (ridiculous! I'm a british social entrepreneur not an american multinational) to spare for one of the many databases I'll be utilising. Nor will I likely make huge sums from the web app. But the new home owners will be far better informed, and this will lead to many millions in thrifty decision making on their part, boosting the UK economy. Public benefit. Now I wont be able to – a large chunk of the site will be missing. Maybe I'll scrape OurProperty/Fubra or RightMove.

Actually, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) publishes some "live" and free Land Registry data which is more detailed than the land registry publications, but still not at street level. Baby steps!

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How do you think the data is collected?

I understand your issue and the relative difference between Open and Free data - however the issue you overlook is that the core data is not free to collect and manage. Whether private or public sector there is a cost attached, which in this instance should not be borne by the taxpayer. 

Even if the UK economy is ultimately boosted by future services based on data; in reality if the taxpayer has paid for creation and management of the data - the net gain could be at best minimal.

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Can we have a statement of policy?

The end user of National Statistics does not pay for access to the datasets available on the NS website (and accessible from this one), but the costs of collecting, analysing and managing these core data are entirely borne by the taxpayer.  I am struggling to understand why this is not the case for datasets such as propery prices - as long as what is being made available is somehting that already exists.  If substantial additional work has to be done (e g to remove any personal or disclosive data) thee would be a case for recovering those costs from users.  If existing private sector initiatives in the same field would be undermined, that would also be a legitimate barrier.  My suspsicion, though, is that the main barrier is that the agencies involved have budgeted for income from selling the data, and they would be up a well known creek without a paddle if this disappeared into thin air. 

Saulcet says that the net gain from doing this could at best be minimal.  It could equally be massive.  If it never happens we will never know.  The whole idea of this site, before it got obsessed with the minutiae of government, was to get the data out there and see what happened, not to prejudge the gain.  And given that the creation and management costs met by the taxpayer are incurred anyway in meeting the government's own needs, the valid comparison should eb between the benefits and the marginal costs of making the data available.  (Those marginal costs may sometimes be large, and there is a legitimate argument that resource cuts militate against incurring them.)

It would be useful to see some statement of policy on these matters.  At the moment it is hard to escape the conclusion that government departments and agencies are being left to make it up as they go aling.

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Policy and aims?

The Office of National Statistics has funding of some £140M pa to achieve its aims of collecting and managing data. This data is then provided for wider use. By nature other areas of government do not have funding allocated or ringfenced in this way.

I disagree with exstat who arguably views that as these costs are incurred anyway by the taxpayer there should in effect be no mechanism to recoup expenditure or gain income. This does not produce value for the taxpayer with the government model we have in the UK of Next step agencies and Trading funds.

However a clear, wide scoping policy of government data and aims would cut through this confusion, and exstat is quite correct as there is little consistency across government. Should any part of government profit from data? Should data income cross-subsidise other services? ..or the deficit? Should only the market make best use of this data?

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The Power of Information

The Power of Information Review's recommendation 10 on the treatment to pricing us consistent with what I am arguing - see Beer's posting earlier in the thread.

It is perfectly arguable that government should seek to maximise its income from datasets.  It just happens to be inconsistent with the rest of the rhetoric about open data boosting the economy - let a thousand flowers bloom and all that.  I'm not a great fan of the , and As with many of these issues, statsitics faced up to them first.  Until the mid nineties (I think) government statistics publications were sold in paper form at a cost which was designed to recover some of the collection and compilation costs.  ONS budgets were presumably set to take into account this income so its position was not inherently different to that of agencies and trading funds now.  Some far-sighted people exploited the new web capabilities to move to free web-based dissemination, backed up by charged for paper outputs for those who still wanted them.  (Just for the record, many national statistics are produced outside the Office for National Statistics.  As far as I know the funding for that is emphatically not ring-fenced; it has to fight with eveything else.)

The issue for me now is whether government will match that far-sightedness for other sources of data, or whether we are going to be stuck with a combination of big rhetoric and decisions made based on financial criteria whihc are at odds with that rhetoric.  Obviously there is an issue where income is currently substantial and they are suddenly expected to do wiithout.  The far-sighted thing would be to adjust their budget accordingly, but that is not easily done at present!  I agree that a review to seek consistency would help.  Perhaps the current consultation provides the opportunity.  Some day I'll get round to reading it!

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I would say that's "tough"

If you're really an "entrepreneur" starting off a business venture, then pay for it. You won't get far with a business plan based on begging.

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In agreement

Where data is essential to enable the public to form an opinion on the stewardship of public funds then the public need free access to this information at the click of a button. Department spending is a key example of what I would consider to be essential public information.

However, data which is more commercial in nature such as house prices, ownership details or house sales volume is not essential for the public to form an opinion on the spending of a particular government department. Such commercial data obviously has a value in the market place and as a result acess to this commercial data should be charged for in an effort to reduce the reliance on the tax payer and to drive private income from data that would ultimately profit the holder of such information.

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It's not just about stewardship

I think this encapsulates the danger that the original concept behind data.gov.uk is getting sidetracked into one particular agenda, namely what government spends.  I have no problem with such data being available but I have big problems with it being plastered all over the front pages of the site, giving the impression that this aspect - transparency - so what it is all about (to be fair the balance has been redressed to a limited degree in the last couple of months).  I sometimes wonder whether Tim Berners-Lee is happy with the way it is presented now.

My recollection is that the original concept was to provide free access to government data holdings in computer readable form to enable business and the public to add value to them.  A substantial subset of Ordnance Survey data became available as a result, and they don't have a lot to do with stewardship or spending. 

On that basis, property price data are a prime candidate, surely, as there is clear potential to add value. 

However, it is clear that not everything will be made available for free.  A lot of OS data still has to be paid for, for example.  Loss of substantial income must be an issue here.  However, the onus has to be on the data owner to justify why their data should not be freed up, while those of similar owners is available for free.  But if the "loss of income" argument could be used to justify continuation of charging, surely much of what has been made available would still be being charged for.

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Beer

All data will be available for free. Eventually. When every last quango is beaten into seeing the light.

The "loss of income" argument was thrown out a long time ago – while a quango or department may directly appear to suffer in the short term, the economy benefits far more.

Power of Information Taskforce Report: Recommendation 10

Public information should be available at marginal cost, which in practice means for free online.  Exceptions to this rule should pass stringent tests to ensure that the national benefit is actually served by charging for information and thus limiting its reuse by exploiting the monopoly rights conferred by intellectual property regimes.  OPSI (part of The National Archives) should define and consult publicly upon such tests which they then enforce.

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Beware the loss of income argument

Absolutely right, Cretep.  That's why I get worried when I see the loss of income argument being used on here, particularly when it is coupled with the view that the free data thing is really about monitoring the terrible things that the public sector gets up to.  That plays, possibly inadvertently, to one particular political agenda, and I am not convinced that those pushing that agenda would be unhappy to see data that do not serve their agenda being charged for once again. 

The problem for those with large datsets of this nature is that their business plans for the next few years have assumptions about income built in to them.  Make it free and they will be told that have to make extra savings (over and above those that everyone is being asked to make) to compensate, savings which could compromise the quality and breadth of the dataset in question (I suspect we will see this in statistics, with sample sizes being reduced to the bare minimum necessary to meet EU requirements).  Politicians have a nasty habit of assuming that what they want (ooh, let's say for the sake of argument producing massive datasets of detailed expenditure - how much resource is that consuming?) costs nothing while what they do not want must have been expensive and inefficient!

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Can't wait to get involved

Hi - I am really happy to discover this. Good job!

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I appreciate what you are

I appreciate what you are saying, but the original post was discussing the fairness or openness of charging for property data. I do think data such as this is quite unique in nature and is indeed an asset that should be exploited. After all property prices and trends are hot topics in the media and generate sales for newspapers and in my view the cost of compiling this data and employing the staff that work with this data should be partly recouped through charging for access to the data. Newspapers such as the Financial Times often report on the current trends in the property market using this data to inform their articles, in my opinion it would be a huge shame to loose such revenue.

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I guess it would depend on

I guess it would depend on what the person/party would be doing with the data. If they were going to use it to make money then I don't see why they should not be paying for it. Also what's to stop them selling it afterwards i the price is very low?

Dawn

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I'm in the same position. Can

I'm in the same position.

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Mikeemr - Clearly there are

Mikeemr - Clearly there are distinctions being made between what is to be made available free and what is to be charged for.  The trouble is that the basis on which that distinction is being drawn is opaque at best, and (partly for that reason) probably being applied differently by different data publishers.  The newspapers also report on current trends in many statistical series, but all (at least I think all) National Statistics are made available free.  That loses some revenue.  The parallel is not perfect of course, as the house price dataset is presumably far more detailed and granular than any statistical dataset could be, given that the latter absolutely must avoid revealing identifiable data.  The rhetoric of Open Data was (and I hope still is) to encourage innovative use of government datasets.  To adapt your final phrase, in my opinion it would be a huge shame to lose such innovation.  I would not like to see revenue issues automatically ruling out release.  In some ways I would like a public discussion of the criteria, hopefully leading to greater clarity and consistency across publishers.  But part of me worries that would lead to some free datasets being charged for again!

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use data for earn money, pay money for data

It really depend on what you do with data you get. If they just use data for personal purpose, no business, it's ok, no pay. But, when those data use for earn money, it must cost some price. I think.

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Quango's self interest before

Quango's self interest before the public's. this need to change - and soon!

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Stupid amount of money - profiteering

Exactly, that's a hilarious amount of money for sending a data file to someone. Surely it's all automated? (someone correct me if I'm wrong)

In any case, it is supposed to be publically accessible, regardless of what it's being used for. Therefore, it must be publically accessible, and it's certainly not if it costs that much money to access it! Businesses and people making money from it aren't evil, they are helping our economy anyway - they should be able to use it.

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