Another nut to crack


Just as everyone has been getting excited/delirious/innovative over the launch of data.gov.uk (and of course they should be chuffed) a little spanner appears in the metaphorical works.

Over 2000 people signed this petition to No 10 seeking to get postcodes freed up after the Ernest Marples site was closed down and several useful services that relied upon it were forced to close. Now you might have though that after the PM himself announced in November that he was going to make Ordnance Survey midscale data freely available for use and reuse (even commercial) that post codes were a slam dunk. Here is what Gordon Brown said on 17th November:

And from April next year Ordnance Survey will open up information about administrative boundaries, postcode areas and mid-scale mapping.

No 10 has just responded to the petition on the day after opening up 2,500 data sets many of which have a geographic component and guess what?

As access to the PAF is governed under a condition of licence, Postcomm monitors its practice. Royal Mail’s licence obliges the company to make access to the PAF available on reasonable terms. Postcomm allows the company to make a reasonable specified profit margin and monitors its accounts.

Postcomm has previously undertaken a public consultation reviewing how the PAF was managed. The consultation started in 2006 and finished in 2007. Postcomm took all the diverse uses of the PAF into account before reaching its decision in 2007, announcing more safeguards for the management of the address information held in the PAF with the aim of making sure that the PAF is maintained properly and made available on fair and reasonable terms. The findings of the consultation can be found on Postcomm’s website (www.psc.gov.uk).

If any PAF user or stakeholder feels that Royal Mail is not complying with the terms of section 116 of the PSA 2000 or Condition 22 of its licence, they can either raise concerns direct with the company or with Postcomm. Postcomm would consider the merits of any such concerns in the light of its statutory duties.

I think in English that means “No, no no”

Quite how this response fits with the current spirit of openness in government and the plans to free up some of Ordnance Survey’s data products after consultation is beyond me!

Perhaps Sir Tim needs to put a call into his friend Gordon to point out the inconsistency. Oh for a bit of joined up government.

UPDATE: This post on the Ernest Marples blog (which I found after writing this post) sets out very eloquently why the response is so inadequate.