The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has staked a claim as the first local authority in the UK to publish open and linked data, in support of financial transparency.
In April, local councils were asked by the Department of Communites and Local Government to reveal details of supplier spending over £500, and then have this same information published to the internet by January 2011. It is a requirement for all local councils to publish details of their spending in an open, CSV file format on a monthly basis from January next year.
Windsor and Maidenhead worked with supplier Unit4 to publish data in a linked and open format. Unit4 and also gave advice on extraction, exclusion and redaction of sensitive data that councils have been told not to publish.
Unit4’s Linked4 platform allows any local council to feed CSV file spending information (which they will be required to publish according to the government's transparency guidelines) into the system and produce usable open and linked data within a few minutes. The borough has long been a proponent of local government transparency and began publishing all spend over £500 in March 2009.
Using the Agresso Business World ERP application from Unit4, the council managed data extraction "in-house”, said Anthony Kemp, strategic director of resources at the council.
The current government transparency guidelines are an important step for transparency, but in many councils the data remains in silos, according to the supplier. Linked data however allows easier data searches and comparison, it said.
Kemp urged other councils to link their data, adding: "It takes minimal investment and has the potential to significantly reduce waste and cost.”
Hammersmith & Fulham council in London recently announced its own financial transparency plans, as well as publishing its list of assets register including all buildings and council-owned land.