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The Government’s ongoing commitment to increasing transparency across both Whitehall and local government includes the Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency (the Code), issued in September 2011. The government is now considering whether or not to make the Code a legal requirement, via regulations. As part of this consideration, the Department for Communities and Local Government has today (25 October 2012) published its consultation document Improving Local Government Transparency: Consultation.
The Code sets out key principles for local authorities in creating greater transparency through more routine publication of what is defined as ‘public data’, which will enable local authorities to enhance accountability to the public. This public data is intended to be the objective, factual data, on which policy decisions are based and on which public services are assessed.
Effective strategic asset management is delivered by local authorities using factual data about the property estate, and as such it is proposed that public data should include (inter alia) “the location of public land and building assets and key attribute information that is normally recorded on asset registers”. The publication of this data is intended to help the public hold their local authorities to account and also help to drive better performance of public buildings and share community assets.
The consultation document sets out more detail of what is meant by key attribute information and defines 21 attribute areas for all property assets (subject to specific exclusions). Should the proposals go ahead as they stand, the requirement to publish this data will clearly put the strategic management of public assets in the spotlight, and will no doubt raise the profile of asset management within individual authorities and their communities.
This is unquestionably an important consultation for asset managers in English local authorities – both in terms of the collation of the defined attribute information (which may not currently be readily available within all authorities), and in terms of the impact of the publication of the information. The DCLG Consultation closes on 20 December 2012 and we would encourage you to respond with your views on the proposals.
In recognition of the significance of this consultation as part of the wider transparency agenda, we have a representative from DCLG speaking at our National AMP conference on 14 November 2012. This will enable conference delegates to hear first hand about the proposals and to raise questions direct.