The UK government yesterday confirmed its commitment to devolving some power to the voluntary sector, and to ensuring data is made available for the public scrutiny of public services.
“The best contribution that central government can make [to the Big Society] is to devolve power, money and knowledge to those best placed to find the best solutions to local needs: elected local representatives, frontline public service professionals, social enterprises, charities, co-ops, community groups, neighbourhoods and individuals.”
Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide
Central to this is a continued commitment to releasing public data for the public to use:
“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”.
I’ve not yet seen anything that puts an expectation on the voluntary sector to release data, and to do so in an open format, but if they are to deliver services alongside local government then it seems inevitable that there will be a similar expectation on them to release data as there is on public sector organisations. And it will, quite rightly, need to happen across the board – regardless of whether or not an organisation is delivering a public service.
NCVO is already encouraging charities to release data and Open Charities has opened up the charity register; the Charity Commission itself, however, seems to be lagging behind at the moment.
I expect it won’t be allowed to lag for long though. Voluntary sector organisations may well be about to find themselves under a lot more scrutiny, not just from government and funders but from the general public too.
This post is based on one I published to the Citizenship Foundation’s blog.
Update (15 Dec 2010, 18:00)
In light of comments, I have changed the title of this post from a statement to a question.