Friday, 6 June 2014

Open data: Transparency in local government

Whereas the District Council seems to be unsure about the business of making information available to the public:
Futures Forum: District Council cabinet meets Weds 4th June: how to interpret FOI requests
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: further FOI requests
EDDC appeals against Information Commissioner’s ruling on transparency - Claire Wright

... there are other councils who are not so coy 
- especially with regard to these new central government guidelines:
Local Government Transparency Code 2014

From Cambridge:

Open data: Transparency in local government

We are committed to being open and transparent about how we work, our decision-making processes and the services we provide. As part of this commitment we are increasing the amount of data that we make available publicly so that residents are able to hold us to account better.

We have used the government's Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency, which recommends the datasets councils should make available as a minimum, as a starting point for deciding what information we should make available.

We have also used your feedback and requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to identify additional datasets for publication. We will continue to increase the number of datasets that we make available over time, where resources and capacity permit and there is a clear public demand for the information.

Open data: Transparency in local government | Cambridge City Council

From Stevenage, with a useful overview of the guidance:
Data Transparency - Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities

And several others:
Data Transparency - Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities - Colchester Borough Council
Local government transparency code 2014
Local Government Transparency | westlancashirerecord

The Communities Secretary had shown concern about transparency at local government for some time before theses new measures were brought in last month:
Futures Forum: Transparency and process in East Devon... continued: part one
Councils 'fail on data publication' (From Mid Devon Star)

And whilst some commentators have been sceptical at East Devon's willingness to publish material:
OK, EDDC, let’s see you talk your way out of this one! | East Devon Alliance

... the County Council has gone part of the way in showing transparency:

4.8. The County Council has adopted the Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency, in respect of its approach to publication of and access to information relating to the remuneration of Chief Officers/Heads of Service. Pay levels for all Chief Officers/Heads of Service posts are published on the County Council s website and/or in the Annual Statement of Accounts.

Part 6 – Section 5 | Pay Policy Statement (April 2014 - March 2015) | Constitution Part 6 - 11 | Democracy in Devon

A note of caution from another commentator, however:

Local Government Transparency Code

May 2nd, 2014

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has just issued a Local Government Transparency Code in exercise of his powers under section 2 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 to issue a Code of Recommended Practice as to the publication of information by local authorities about the discharge of their functions and other matters which he considers to be related.

The Code sets out in some detail in Part 2 the type of information held by local authorities which must be published (some of it annually) and in Part 3 the information which, in the view of the Secretary of State, ought to be published. A helpful Annex A provides the details in tabular form.

Paragraph 14 of the Code provides that: “Where information would otherwise fall within one of the exemptions from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community Regulations 2009 or falls within Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 then it is in the discretion of the local authority whether or not to rely on that exemption or publish the data.” There is therefore no attempt to override the FOIA exemptions. 

But where a qualified exemption applies, the appearance of the requested information in one of the categories set out in the Code will have a role (possibly a significant role) in establishing the public interest in support of disclosure.

Christopher Knight

No comments: