Government puts publicly available data at the heart of its localism agenda

The government’s Localism Bill was published yesterday, as was a guidance document. The latter is clear: publicly available data is essential for empowering local communities.

I tried reading the draft Bill but it made my brain hurt, so I flicked through for references to ‘data’.

The word ‘data’ is not mentioned in the draft Bill at all, but there are numerous references to ‘information’. This is not particularly surprising as the document sets the legal ground – powers and responsibilities of local authorities, amendments to other Acts in line with new clauses, etc – rather than detailing the concept. However, we can expect amendments and more detailed notes during the Bill’s passage through Parliament (Volume 2, for example, was published this morning).

The document ‘Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide‘, on the other hand (also published yesterday), does have the release of data as a central plank.

That document is an easy read, so I won’t try and cover everything here. Essentially, it says that in order to allow greater control at a community level, information is vital:

“Public access to public data provides the evidence base for public pressure and action, both on the part of those proposing new ways to deliver services and on the part of service users thus enabled to make an informed choice. This is what we mean by ‘transparency’: the ability to see how government actually works – or doesn’t work.

“…there can be no local innovation without local control of resources. Nor can local decision- making succeed without access to the government data on which informed judgement depends”.

This data, some may be alarmed to note (and some, no doubt, delighted), will include contracts and salaries: “As well as spending data, we will require transparency from public sector bodies on contracts, salaries and staffing”.

The approach is to “focus on outcome, not process, and to release such knowledge into the public domain as raw data – so that anyone can analyse and visualise the information, spot trends and make connections that would otherwise go unseen”.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

Leave a Reply