Skip Navigation
United Kingdom

Local Transparency (UK0097)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United Kingdom Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Support Institution(s): Local Authorities

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Local Commitments, Open Data, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: United Kingdom Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Objective
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will
develop a package of policy proposals to help and encourage councils to
publish all the information they can (i.e. not personal or sensitive data) as a
matter of course. These proposals will be developed and tested in
collaboration with the local government sector. MHCLG will engage with the
sector through a series of visits, meetings and workshops aimed at
understanding the barriers to and opportunities of greater local transparency.
The subsequent proposals will drive further efficiency and innovation within
the local government sector.
In December 2017 the Prime Minister wrote to Cabinet colleagues about her
priorities for progressing the Government’s transparency agenda. In pursuit of
these objectives, MHCLG will take forward the work to develop a package of
policy proposals – in collaboration with the local government sector - to help
and encourage councils to publish all the information they can.
These proposals will be developed in line with the Local Digital Declaration, a
joint endeavour initiated by MHCLG, the Government Digital Service (GDS), and
a collection of local authorities and sector bodies from across the UK and
signed by over 160 LAs committed to working collaboratively to design
user-centred public services fit for the internet age. Great work has already
been done to transform our services using digital tools and technology, but we
have an opportunity to do more by using Declaration principles.
The Declaration aims to co-create the conditions for the next generation of
local public services in a more open and flexible market in which we can unlock
the full potential for innovation. Proposals for driving greater local
transparency will, therefore, be designed in accordance with Declaration
principles.
What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Since 2010, the UK has been at the forefront of opening up data. The public
and press need data to hold public bodies to account and the UK government
needs to do all it can to help ensure the highest standards of public life.
Greater
transparency can also improve public services, performance, and
accountability. Public bodies need to deliver value for money, cut waste and
inefficiency, and ensure every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best
possible way.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
It will make it easier for the public to see how effective local government is,
how they are performing and using resources. Greater transparency will
further encourage dialogue between local authorities and citizens, increasing
trust and leading to better feedback loops and co-creation of services.
Ensuring that data is in an open, standardised, structured, and usable format
can also allow third parties and Government to re-use and create value from
the data, driving innovation and economic growth.
Lead implementing organisation
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Timeline
Summer 2019 - Autumn 2021
OGP values
Transparency - disclosing data, improving the quality of the data that is
captured and disclosed, and improving the accessibility of information to the
public.
Other actors involved - government
Local Authorities
Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals
etc
Verifiable and measurable milestones to fulfil the
commitment
New or
ongoing
Start date End date
Develop a package of policy proposals to help and
encourage councils to publish all the information they
can (i.e. not personal or sensitive data) as a matter of
course).
New November
2019
Autumn
2021
Respond to the 2016 consultation on the Transparency
Code summarising responses to the consultation as well
as the findings of the 2018 survey. The consultation
response will also set out MHCLG’s plan for developing
a new policy on local transparency
New November
2019
November
2019
Implement a local government data engagement
programme to understand the barriers to and
opportunities presented by open data, including
workshops, site visits and presentations
New November
2019
Autumn
2021

IRM Midterm Status Summary

8. Local transparency

Main Objective

“The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will develop a package of policy proposals to help and encourage councils to publish all the information they can (i.e. not personal or sensitive data) as a matter of course. These proposals will be developed and tested in collaboration with the local government sector. MHCLG will engage with the sector through a series of visits, meetings and workshops aimed at understanding the barriers to and opportunities of greater local transparency. The subsequent proposals will drive further efficiency and innovation within the local government sector.

In December 2017 the Prime Minister wrote to Cabinet colleagues about her priorities for progressing the Government’s transparency agenda. In pursuit of these objectives, MHCLG will take forward the work to develop a package of policy proposals – in collaboration with the local government sector - to help and encourage councils to publish all the information they can.

These proposals will be developed in line with the Local Digital Declaration, a joint endeavour initiated by MHCLG, the Government Digital Service (GDS), and a collection of local authorities and sector bodies from across the UK and signed by over 160 LAs committed to working collaboratively to design user-centred public services fit for the internet age. Great work has already been done to transform our services using digital tools and technology, but we have an opportunity to do more by using Declaration principles.

The Declaration aims to co-create the conditions for the next generation of local public services in a more open and flexible market in which we can unlock the full potential for innovation. Proposals for driving greater local transparency will, therefore, be designed in accordance with Declaration principles.”

Milestones

  1. Develop a package of policy proposals to help and encourage councils to publish all the information they can (i.e. not personal or sensitive data) as a matter of course.
  2. Respond to the 2016 consultation on the Transparency Code summarising responses to the consultation as well as the findings of the 2018 survey. The consultation response will also set out MHCLG’s plan for developing a new policy on local transparency.
  3. Implement a local government data engagement programme to understand the barriers to and opportunities presented by open data, including workshops, site visits and presentations.

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see the United Kingdom’s action plan at https://bit.ly/2YPqNoV.

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Access to Information, Civic Participation

Potential impact:

Minor

 

Commitment Analysis
The action plan notes that there is currently a paucity of good quality, searchable and machine-readable data available at a local level in the UK, in particular concerning data produced by local authorities, which is not currently standardised or streamlined. Interested users must access this information through individual systems for each Authority, making cross comparison across local authority organisations difficult without significant resources. While many local authorities produce and publish significant amounts of information, much of it is not searchable or is only available in PDF format, thus limiting its re-usability. [34] These challenges both restrict data-driven policy making and reduce the ability of citizens to engage with local-level policy making or hold their institutions to account.

Under this commitment, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will develop and test a set of proposals for local authorities on how to most efficiently publish their data. MHCLG will collaborate with the local government sector (through visits, meetings and workshops) to better understand challenges experienced by local authorities regarding transparency. The commitment’s focus on assisting local authorities to improve their data publishing practices makes it relevant to the OGP value of access to information. It is also relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as the MHCLG plans to hold a series of visits, meetings and workshops with local authorities aimed at understanding the barriers to, and opportunities for, greater local transparency.

The activities in this commitment represent a first step in identifying existing barriers to local-level transparency and identifying improvements in publication practices for local authorities. The commitment does not specifically call for local authorities to publish more information within the milestones. Rather, MHCLG will develop guidelines and recommendations to govern future improvements in publication practices. This was an intentional choice, as MHCLG believed that there was not necessarily a need for ‘more’ data, as it is technically already available, albeit not in optimal formats. Therefore, MHCLG decided to focus on improving the quality and usability of existing data, while standardising publication practices across local authorities. [35]

The new guidelines and recommendations developed under this commitment could, in due course, catalyse better data and information publication by local authorities. However, the commitment does not provide a timeline for the eventual improvement in access to information, nor does it detail the priority policy areas or ideal volumes of data published. The commitment, therefore, is unlikely to lead to more than a minor shift in the status quo at the culmination of the action plan period. A more ambitious programme of activities and outcomes may be beneficial in future action plans to increase the volume of quality, local-level data available to citizens and civil society, which may also benefit UK level policy making.

[34] Alicia Walker, Ben Cheetham, Chris Widgery and Sheldon Ferguson, MHCLG (UK Government), interview 21 July 2020.
[35] Ibid.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership