Modernise data publishing and reuse (draft)


Beacon Status – encouraging and rewarding excellence

The Taskforce talked with stakeholders and aired on its blog a low cost approach for unlocking the power of information at low cost in Local Government.  The Taskforce set out some simple rules in plain English that would help a Local Authority encourage information reuse and save money by adopting a simple policy:

  • Ensure you have a copyright notice or a licence to tell people what they can and can’t do with your information (which is also your intellectual property).
  • Every local authority owns its own copyrights and database rights. You are required by law (the Public Sector Information regulations) to publish the terms under which your material can be re-used.
  • To minimise bureaucracy and cost it makes sense for your information to be available for people to re-use for free under a simple standard licence. The best way to do this is using the plain English “PSI Click-Use Licence”, administered by the Office of Public Sector Information, part of the National Archives.
  • All you need to do is adopt a policy for your Council’s information to be licensed by “The Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office”, who also licences Crown copyright information for the government. This is explained here
  • The wording you will need for the mandate is at this link

Following such critieria should reduce cost to the local authority, by doing something once rather than many times. It could also foster local economic and third sector activity.  Where leading local authorities take such measures they should be recognised and rewarded. The IDEA ‘Beacon’ scheme is a prestigious award scheme that recognises excellence in local government. The IDEA website describes Beacon thus

‘The Beacon Scheme was set up to disseminate best practice in service delivery across local government….Themes are selected for each round of the scheme by government ministers. The themes represent issues which are important in the day-to-day lives of the public and reflect key government priorities. Themes are announced one or two years in advance and some themes will be repeated in future rounds.  Beacon status is granted to those authorities who can demonstrate a clear vision, excellent services and a willingness to innovate within a theme. Awards are made by government ministers based on recommendations made by an independent advisory panel.’

TheTaskforce has discussed with CLG the possibility of a Beacon award for excellence in power of information.


CLG should work with local government to develop and adopt a Power of Information Beacon award based upon criteria set out by the taskforce.

RSS feed of comments 5 Responses to “Beacon Status – encouraging and rewarding excellence”

  1. Think this is a really important recommendation – better, freer Local information at the local level – and should be more visible.

  2. Barry Tennison says:

    Beacon “status” is an intuitively attractive response to the immense challenge of how to spread best practice. However (says he, stroking grey beard), do please learn the lessons from others who’ve tried it. Unless done well, it just reinforces two-tierism: the best are encouraged and sail away even further; the worst mumble resentfully and give up trying. Examples abound in the NHS (beacon this & that, foundation vs non-foundation trusts) and in local government. One has to (a) ensure the beaconing DOES encourage the non-beacons, in ways that they are definitely capable of responding to; and (b) have the explicit aim that ALL should become beacons (or beacon-equivalents) pretty rapidly. These are almost certainly not all the lessons – a bit of high level cross-departmental learning about the ACTUAL results (as opposed to the optimistic aims and claims) is in order before embarking on this.

  3. With or without a Beacon award there is substantial scope for working with the IDeA and the LGA Group in general on matters of better use of public information. Off the top of my head, Service Transformation, Customer Insight and there is other work going on around effective access, use and management of data and information.

  4. Raffaela Goodby says:

    I echo Andy Mabbetts comments about needing to be clear that local government is a part of the reports scope. For example, the recommendation for a simple common internet access policy, should apply to local gov too. (bottom of page 6)

    It would also be useful as part of the review, and subsequent guidance, that a short, to the point summary is provided for Chief Executive officers, and Cabinet Members, so that they are supportive of, and show leadership for, their communications staff’ being trained and operating in the new skills. (page 23, under heading ‘modern training in modern skills’)

    And a very pedantic issue, there is a typo at end of paragraph 1, page 23, where developments is incorrect.

    Excellent report, and easy to read, even for the ‘non technical’ – which is positive.

  5. Simon Whitehouse says:

    If I’m reading this correctly then Beacon Status would be awarded solely for having an open licensing regime. A focus on the practical reuse of data as discussed elsewhere in this report through open standards and APIs etc. should also form part of the requirements to attaining Power of Information Beacon status.

    National agencies by default set the standards for their data. It is important that standards are set early for the APIs into local government data sets.

    For example, if councils use different APIs for access to their data on prosecutions of food preparation premises then innovation will be stifled when developers have to write different code for each authority. With Beacon status could come a requirement to work on developing common, open standards.