Lunatics and Asylums

When you read the latest article in Guardian Technology entitled “One way street to postcode madness” Thoughts about lunatics running the asylum do come to mind.

Local authorities who are the statutory street naming and numbering authorities have provided information to Royal Mail who use it as a major source of change intelligence for the Postal Address File (PAF) which RM maintains to enable them to efficiently deliver mail to our homes and offices (some people in the past may have questioned the efficiency bit). RM have built a substantial business from licensing this data to business, Ordnance Survey (it is the basis for CodePoint and AddressPoint), NLPG and (surprise, surprise) following the new MSA back to Local Government!

Next year RM is proposing doubling the fees it charges Local Government and in the spirit of the Gershon Review to drive down their costs Local Government are crying foul. They have even been told that if they use their LLPG as the basis for any look ups on their web site (without displaying or searching on the postcode that they are still liable to pay RM for the PAF. So Local Govenment are now saying that perhaps they should charge RM for providing change information etc. Confused? Good – that probably means you have not lost all your marbles yet.

On this occasion I am in fulll agreement with the Free Our Data guys at the Guardian. I think the key difference between this and their campaign on freeing up OS data is that the PAF is a by product of RM’s core activity (delivering mail in case anyone has forgotten) whilst map data is the core and only activity of OS.