Open Government Partnership UK

Opening Up Government: Manchester Workshop | 15 April 2015 | Meeting note

The UK Civil Society Open Government Network is working with civil society organisations across the UK to deliver a series of workshops to discuss and develop commitments for the next National Action Plan, and build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK. For more details on this workshop series and where we’re holding them, click here.

Details

The St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, M12 6FZ Manchester

Wednesday 15th April 2015 from 10:00 to 13:00

Purpose

  1. Discuss and develop ideas for open government reforms in Leeds, Yorkshire and the Humber and throughout the UK
  2. Build the community of transparency, participation and accountability reformers in the UK
  3. Share the work of the Open Government Partnership and UK Open Government Civil Society Network

What does an “open government” look like? What are the benefits?

Attendees were asked to discuss what an open government looks like and what the benefits are.

  • Need for third sector to justify decisions – outcomes focused
  • Providing data tools
  • Investing in skills and people re: data
  • If online openness improves, does it create a divide for those not online. Not just access but use.
  • commercial data blocks to be challenged
  • participatory decision-making
  • asks questions
  • meaningful engagement not consultations where decisions already been made
  • More collaborative working at a local level. Don’t just hold events, act on them (asset-based community development events)
  • Starts with issues that are shared
  • Collaborates with other government bodies on shared systems
  • Greater public involvement in decision-making between elections e.g. Citizens juries and deliberative events
  • Consultations earlier in policy cycle
  • More/better evidence for decisions
  • Greater range of voices heard and greater range of needs met
  • Opening up consultations to non-experts
  • More accessible language in consultations
  • Better use of social media by government as a way of being open
  • Local government less party political, more collaborative and network based
  • More level playing field for contracts – not advantage for those used to writing bids and not working with smaller/ other groups
  • Provides broad range of data not skewed
  • Greater use of FOI at a national level and by a wider range of people
  • Publish everything in public e.g. GitHub like the French
  • 2-way information flows
  • Gathers information given voluntarily
  • Framework of consent
  • Respects permissions/ consent

 

What would a good open government reform look like? Reviewing existing open government ideas

Attendees were asked to look at the current commitments in the Open Government Manifesto and rank them in priority order. Each table was given a subset of half of the existing ideas.

Priority

Level

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3
1 Better accountability of elected representatives during their term of office Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets Co-production of public services
2 Co-production of public services
Citizen Assembly on voting reform
Transparency in government contracting
Co-production of Public Services
Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’
Transparency in government contracting
Citizen Assembly on voting reform
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
3 Fight corruption in the UK & abroad
End corrupt money in UK property
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets
Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
End corrupt money in UK property
End corrupt money in UK property
Better accountability of elected representatives during their term of office
The UK government should commit to setting up an independent body, with membership drawn from civil society, to scrutinise and oversee Britain’s security and intelligence agencies
4 Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
Transparency in government contracting
Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’
The UK government should commit to setting up an independent body, with membership drawn from civil society, to scrutinise and oversee Britain’s security and intelligence agencies
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Fight corruption in the UK and abroad
Co-producing meaningful consultation principles and guidelines
Meaningful engagement when consulting with stakeholders
Adopt an open and formal process for piloting new policies
5 Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Implement the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
The UK government should commit to setting up an independent body, with membership drawn from civil society, to scrutinise and oversee Britain’s security and intelligence agencies
Open government accountability, e.g. an independent ‘Office for Open Government’
Make open government a truly ‘national’ policy
Developing dialogue skills in public admin
Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets
Fight corruption in the UK and abroad

 

What open government reforms would you introduce?

Attendees were asked to develop their own ideas for open government reforms they would like to see introduced. These commitments will be added to the Open Government Manifesto.

Better accountability and support (to get more people to stand) for elected representatives
Support/ getting more people to stand:
– non-party based training and support e.g. Equivalent of Greens ’30 under 30′ scheme
– protected time for council duties from employer (paid)
– better financial incentives, especially important for freelancers
– better resources and support to engage e.g. to get newsletters out
(Also look at international best practice)

Accountability:
– go to more community events (and community groups invite them more). Add to job description on code of conduct.
– better training and use of social media including for events (e.g. Surgeries). Add to job description or code of conduct.
– clearer information for public and councillors about who to go to with an issue
– better information for councillors on local service data

 

Citizens assembly (improve)
Democratic space is a right. Each community must have access to a physical and virtual space to assemble and talk/plan whatever they want to. Presently it costs £100s to hire venues such as GMCVO or Friends Meeting House.
We need declared democratic space. Facilities should offer a number of days a year when it must act as a democratic space. Space for the people to assemble to discuss and found out information about issues affecting them or the nation. To discuss democratic engagement and process. The cost barriers of access to space, should be taken seriously as an objective of open government.
Open government must provide information on where free spaces are and when they’re available.

 

Rethink representation: ideas to improve access, accountability and transparency
Support for the local representative/ councillor/MP/MEP by active involved citizens given the chance to engage in democracy at local level, but not just from parties from anyone who wishes to be involved. Representatives to share space with libraries or community facilities in the heart of their constituency and leave the party fold to spend more time with the community they represent.
Rethink representation to spread workload, why not job-share representation?

1 vote cast for compatibility with current system. But more than one person doing the role = a representative job share would mean the representative could be in more than one place at a time – council or locals
Open government can achieve more if it involves people in problem solving, and takes on board creative solutions to involve people. It should go far beyond the cliques, party faithfuls and lobbyists and prioritise those willing to act for the benefit of the community that is supposed to be served.

 

Gather data in different voting systems at the same time
– in some areas, during FPTP, also try to gather preferences that could be used to show other outcomes if other election methods used
– science!
– gather data that can be shown to public to demonstrate different options and allow informed discussion based on real data

 

Building the capacity to engage with communities
Create an investment programme to actively invest in new, data-based approaches and stimulate change.
Need to focus work on practical applications ensuring citizen involvement.
E.g. challenge fund : cross sector partnerships of local government, developers and citizen groups focusing on aim base approaches bid in a competition.
Outcome is to create scalable approaches that enable mass engagement
Additional investment into local enterprise partnership funded businesses support services to create dedicated data use and security support
Build capacity of public bodies to use data – needs active investment and exemplar work to encourage further development
Why is idea important?
Policies which have no financial element are often ignored by public sector administrations. A commitment to invest in this area creates incentives to engage with open government and sends a powerful signal
Also many may be willing to engage with this agenda but need the tools and skills to carry it forward.
The key with investment is where it is targeted. There is exciting investment to change central government approaches to data but not the resource in localities where it can make a significant difference.
Smaller voluntary institutions and businesses will lack the capacity to independently invest in new approaches but can generate innovation to aid transparency but also improve productivity. Current capacity to use large scale data sets is limited to large corporations and there is an asymmetry of information.

Labour states its commitment to open government

In January, the UK Open Government Network sent a letter to all UK political parties calling on them to state their commitment to open government. The Labour party has just sent the following response.


Dear Tim

Thank you for your letter and giving me the opportunity to reiterate the Labour Party’s commitment to transparency and open government.

As the Party that introduced the Freedom of Information Act we are proud of our record of opening up government. We do, however, recognise that this is a continuous process that all Governments and all political parties should regularly state or restate their intentions in this area.

This week we published our manifesto and that included a commitment to use digital technology to make government more inclusive, transparent and accountable. It said:

We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration, and sharing of data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable. We will continue to back the principle of ‘open data by default’, releasing public sector performance data wherever possible.

Furthermore, you will be aware that in November, I – as Labour’s shadow cabinet office minster for Digital Government – welcomed the publication of the final report of the Digital Government Review that I commissioned a year earlier.

That report made several recommendations and set out a direction of travel for furthering the open government and transparency agenda. Our manifesto also reiterates our promises to extend the scope of freedom of information laws to include public services run by large private companies.

The Labour Party believes in openness and transparency as principles of a democratic and well-run government and we will work with any credible partner to further our shared goals. Should a Labour Government take office after the elections, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the next steps with Open Government Partnership.

Best wishes,

Chi Onwurah

Labour’s candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and shadow minister for digital government, cyber security and social enterprise

Open Government in the Plaid Cymru Manifesto

We’ve been scanning through the party manifestos for policies relevant to open government. This is what we’ve found in the Plaid Cymru Manifesto. Have we missed anything?

Plaid Cymru Manifesto

Briefing on commitments of interest to open government reformers

Read the Plaid Cymru Manifesto here.

Topline messages Quote from the manifesto Page number
Citizen-led Constitution
Written constitution for Wales Citizen-led Constitution

All powers should be given to Wales except those the Welsh people agree should be kept by Westminster, as is the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Plaid Cymru will push for a written constitution for Wales which will be guided by its citizens not by politicians. Developing the Welsh constitution in this way will enable us to consider the society we want to build, not just where the powers should be held.

7
Devolution to Wales
We want to see the full transfer to the Welsh Government of the powers recommended in both reports by the Commission on Devolution in Wales as quickly as possible so it will be possible to create a better, fairer and more

prosperous society for the people of Wales.
Our proposed reserved powers model would set out which powers are in the hands of the people of Wales and which still lie with Westminster.

7
Proportional representation
Support for STV for all elections We want to see the Single Transferable Vote used, where applicable, for all elections, so that as many votes as possible count towards the election of a representative.
Constitutional reform
Elected HoL Elected representatives must be answerable to the people. We support a right to recall Members of Parliament, and other elected representatives, who have broken the law or otherwise brought their role into disrepute. We want to see an elected House of Lords, elected by Single Transferable Vote, while decisions affecting Wales continue to be made there. There should be a Welsh constituency for elections, with a weighted balance to ensure that Wales is heard on all matters and a reduction in the number of members in the second chamber. We do not approve of the current patronage appointment system to the second chamber. 43
Lobbying
Remove part two of the Lobbying Act We will remove part two of the Lobbying Act and will ensure that the lobbying system is genuinely transparent with appropriate access to all. 43
Local media
We will give local newspapers the status of ‘community assets’ so that owners could not close them without communities having the opportunity to keep their paper. 63

Open government in the SNP Manifesto

We’ve been scanning through the party manifestos for policies relevant to open government. This is what we’ve found in the Scottish National Party Manifesto. Have we missed anything?

SNP Manifesto

Briefing on commitments of interest to open government reformers

Read the Scottish National Party Manifesto here.

 

Topline messages Quote from the manifesto Page number
Oppose scrapping the HRA or withdrawal from the ECHR
Oppose scrapping the

Human Rights Act or withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Given the central place of human rights in Scotland’s constitutional settlement, and their importance at the heart of our politics, we will oppose scrapping the

Human Rights Act or withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.

23
Community Empowerment Bill
Ensure progress of

the Community Empowerment Bill

Over these coming months, we will ensure progress of the Community Empowerment Bill, which was introduced to the Parliament earlier this year. The Bill proposes ways we can improve civic and community engagement and empowerment, including on the use of public assets. SNP MPs will seek ways of extending the community asset transfer provisions of the legislation to include property in Scotland owned by UK government departments. 31
Digital connectivity
Digital connectivity Our aim is to deliver a future-proofed infrastructure that will establish world-class digital connectivity across Scotland by 2020, including tackling the digital divide. That is why we are investing in Superfast Broadband, so that at least 95 per cent of premises across Scotland will be able to access fibre broadband by the end of 2017. 33-34
Oppose plans to reintroduce the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’
Oppose plans to reintroduce the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ Protecting personal data

We do not support Tory plans for the reintroduction of the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’, which would see all online activity of every person in the UK stored for a year. Instead, we need a proportionate response to extremism. That is why we will support targeted, and properly overseen, measures to identify suspected extremists and, if necessary, examine their online activity and communications.

21
Proportional representation and HoL reform
Support for STV
Replace the HoL with a fully elected second chamber
This election gives us a rare opportunity to begin to repair what is an increasingly broken political system in the UK. We need to make clear to those who wield power that they do so only with the consent of the people. Almost

every aspect of the system needs an overhaul.
That includes an effective power of recall for MPs. We will continue to work with others, across the political parties, to deliver a system that gives real

power to voters to remove MPs who have forfeited the trust of their electors.

We also badly need a fair voting system for UK elections. The electoral system means political focus is on the interests of a small number of swing voters in marginal seats, and that has meant the economic and social needs of areas like the north of England, Scotland, the West Midlands and Wales have been forgotten.
The SNP supports the Single Transferable Vote, a system that makes sure every vote and every part of the country counts.
Of course, the second chamber of the UK parliament is not even elected and continues to have hereditary members who have a greater say in the future of

Scotland’s defence or welfare system than the elected members of the Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes the House of Lords should be scrapped and replaced with a fully elected second chamber.

22

 

Open government in the UKIP Manifesto

We’ve been scanning through the party manifestos for policies relevant to open government. This is what we’ve found in the UKIP Manifesto. Have we missed anything?

UKIP Manifesto

Briefing on commitments of interest to open government reformers

Read the UKIP Manifesto here.

Topline messages Quote from the manifesto Page number
Political reform and accountability
National referendum every 2 years on issues of greatest importance to the British public
Put matters gathering over 100,000 signatures on the Commons’ Order Paper, to make sure they are genuinely debated and voted upon
Give voters real power to sack their MP or councillor if 20% of constituents demand it
Introduce an Open Primaries Bill
UKIP wants far reaching political reform to ensure that government answers properly to Parliament and that Parliament is accountable to the people. We will introduce:
The Citizens’ Initiative: Every two years we will allow a national referendum on the issues of greatest importance to the British public, gathered via an approved petition, provided the petition has more than two million signatures. The outcome of these referendums will be included in the Queen’s Speech, therefore allowing the public to directly influence legislation. We will also pledge to put matters gathering over 100,000 signatures on the Commons’ Order Paper, to make sure they are genuinely debated and voted upon, not simply brushed over, as currently happens
The Right of Recall: UKIP will give voters real power to sack their MP and scrap the bogus Recall measures introduced by the Tory-led Coalition. Under our proposals, if twenty per cent of an MP’s constituents demand it, within a period of eight weeks, a Recall ballot will be triggered. We will extend this Right of Recall to all elected politicians, e.g. councillors
An Open Primaries Bill: UKIP will introduce an Open Primaries Bill to enable any political parties that wished to do so to widen their selection process to include every local voter. Open Primary ballots would help ensure candidates in winnable seats need not be Westminster insiders.
57
Government more accountable to parliament
Select Committees to approve and veto appointments of any new minister, senior civil servant, senior diplomat, senior appointments to quangos Confirmation hearings: These will require Commons Select Committees to vote to approve the appointment of any new minister, senior civil servant or senior diplomat before they get the job. They will also have the power to veto such appointments. The same rules will apply to senior appointments to quangos and inspection bodies, such as Ofsted 57
Proportional representation
Proportional representation
Restrict voting rights to British citizens
Scrap the Electoral Commission and IPSA and create new Political Standards Authority with lay members on board of governance
Remove postal voting on demand
In an age of multi-party politics, our current first past the post Parliamentary election system is unfair and no longer fit for purpose. Most MPs are elected by a minority of their voters and perhaps with as little as 26 per cent of the vote share. UKIP believes voters should know that every vote counts. We want an electoral system where each voter can vote for the party they really believe in, rather than against one they do not, for tactical reasons. UKIP will campaign for a new, proportional voting system that delivers a Parliament truly reflective of the number of votes cast, while retaining a constituency link, so every vote really does count. We will also:• Restrict the entitlement to vote in British general elections to British citizens and, potentially, countries which have reciprocal voting rights for British citizens, such as Ireland

• Scrap the failing Electoral Commission and Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and merge their functions into a new Political Standards Authority under new independent leadership and a cross-party board of governance with voting lay members

• Remove postal voting on demand. We will scrap the existing postal vote register completely and start again from scratch. Those wishing to have a postal vote must have a valid reason for applying.