Meeting notes 29th October 2018

UK Open Government Multistakeholder Forum | 22 October 2018 | Meeting Notes

by Andreas Pavlou

Attendees

Co-chair: Tim Hughes, Involve
Andreas Pavlou, OGN
Maria Stephens, CRAE
Gavin Freeguard, IfG
Michael Birtwistle, NCVO
Jess Blair, ERS Wales
Lucy McTernan, OGN Scotland
Rose Zussman, TI UK

Co-chair: Yasmin Brooks, DCMS
Sue Bateman, DCMS
Joel Catchatoor, Cabinet Office
Thom Townsend, DCMS
Wasim Akhtar, Cabinet Office
Alex Blandford, DCMS
Vasant Chari, Cabinet Office
Ellie Walker, MHCLG

Notes

Opening remarks from Minister for Digital and Creative Industries

Margot James sent her apologies for not being able to make this meeting. Instead, Yasmin Brooks welcomed the forum and reiterated the importance of this work.
Overall feedback on consultation

Lucy McTernan began by recapping on the UK’s global leadership position on open government and in particular the presence of Penny Mordaunt at the Anti-Corruption summit in Copenhagen this week.

She noted that as Canada takes on the chair role in the Global OGP Steering Committee, there is a focus on achieving big impacts, particularly in relation to the local open government programme, issues of civic space, and equality and gender.

Lucy noted the positive civil society participation in the public consultation but added that engagement came largely from organisations and individuals already involved in the process. She noted that participants in the consultation expect substantive improvements on the draft text.

Sue Bateman reminded the Forum that there is limited time left in getting an agreed plan delivered. She continued to express hope that the goodwill of both sides to finalise the plan before the end of the year will ensure commitments are collectively agreed upon soon.

Feedback from the consultation

Commitment 1 – Grants data

Wasim Akhtar noted the Cabinet Office and 360 Giving have been working closely to get government departments to publish grants data in the autumn. They are pleased to report that all 17 departments will be publishing data soon on Gov.uk. He noted that help from civil society on this particular topic has been very much appreciated.

Michael Birtwistle raised comments about quarterly publishing of data. Wasim explained this would not be possible to implement immediately and that government systems make that frequency of reporting very difficult.

When asked about expanding the 360 Giving standard to local and devolved levels of government, it was noted that MHCLG would need to decide on any course of action to take.

Commitment 2 – Public participation in digital and data policy development

There were a range of comments made in the consultation document on this commitment. It was agreed that these would be best dealt with offline.

Commitment 3 – Embedding Open Policy Making across HMG

Vasant Chari explained the role of the Policy Lab in Cabinet Office which curates evidence of good open policy making (such as on autonomous shipping).

Maria Stephens noted that the consultation highlighted the need to find policy areas that are of significant public interest, to engage marginalised groups, and demonstrate the value of such open processes.

Vasant noted that projects are demand-led and invited civil society organisations to help identify those potential policy areas.

Lucy McTernan added that the learning from, and for, these processes should engage with all levels of government including devolved administrations.

Jess Blair also noted that the language in the commitment should be made clearer, so that it is easier to understand.

Commitment 4 – Transparency Data

Joel Catchatoor noted the Government aims to fix core transparency commitments, so that government data is better connected. A first step was suggested in the plan to create a single database of ministers.

Ellie Walker added that MHCLG wants local authorities to be more transparent and is updating the Transparency Code.

Gavin Freeguard stated that more can be done from government about what should be published. He added that there could be additions to the plan about having all local councillors in a single database. He asked whether any thought had gone into how to embed such data collection in authority processes to reduce the burden, such as general standards. He also asked whether there was any news on the appointment of a Chief Data Officer.

Thom Townsend noted that previous commitments on elections data standards could be seen as a model for achieving change. It was a process that has shown how commitments can be improved outside the parameters and timeframes of the action plan.

Commitment 5 – Open Contracting: Local Engagement and Data Use

Thom Townsend noted that it is a challenge to identify the most appropriate department to lead this commitment and invited civil society to take a more active role.
It was agreed that conversations on this commitment should be taken to the Open Contracting Group.

Commitment 6 – Open Contracting Data

Gavin Freeguard noted that comments on this commitment reflected on the need for organisational identifiers that are open, with a preference for using open ones over proprietary ones.

It was agreed that conversations on this commitment should be taken to the Open Contracting Group.

Commitment 7 – Natural Resource Transparency

Rose Zussman reflected that civil society groups welcomed the continued work on this commitment. She added that the commitment needs to outline what success would look like.
She also asked about the scoping study that was due at the end of 2018 and whether there is a plan of action following its publication.

Commitment 8 – Innovation in Democracy

Tim Hughes noted that the current proposal is heavily tied to citizen assemblies and juries but could be made broader to consider other innovative forms of participation. He added that adding an international learning dimension to this commitment in the action plan would mean it would add value to the commitment already made in the Civil Society Strategy.

Proposals not in the action plan – Courts Transparency, Equality Act Section 106, FOI and Service Providers

Thom Townsend noted that the Minister for Digital and Creative Industries and the Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid have spoken about open government reform in UK courts. He added that the Ministers were planning a statement on the issue.

Andreas Pavlou confirmed that civil society would take a keen interest in the statement and would continue to push for open government reform in this area.

Jess Blair noted that a commitment on Section 106 would be a clear nod in the direction of global OGP priorities.

Tim Hughes noted that while it may be too late for a new commitment to be in place for when the action plan is published, the government could consider working towards a new commitment for the OGP Canada Summit in May 2019.

Gavin Freeguard noted that civil society is anticipating the Information Commissioner’s recommendations on extending freedom of information legislation. He added that even though there is not a specific commitment, it would be strange for the open government action plan to not mention freedom of information at all.

Next steps

Sue Bateman confirmed that government departments will follow up on these comments and be in contact with civil society leads.

It was agreed to aim for a pre-Christmas publishing date for the final action plan.

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