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Data plans in Budget prompt warnings



Open Data Institute casts a critical eye on Government proposals to build an open address register and sell off Land Registry

A Government plan to develop an open address register has prompted criticism for conflicting with a proposal to sell off the Land Registry and recreating an asset that was sold off with Royal Mail.

One of the few digital plans referenced in this week's Budget document was to provide up to £5 million to develop options for a freely available address register. It says this this will encourage the wider use of address and, if frequently updated, help to promote innovation.

But the Open Data Institute (ODI) – a champion of making more data freely available – has warned that Government plans for the Land Registry threaten to make the effort more difficult

The Budget document mentions a plan to consult on the possibility of privatising the Land Registry, which registers the ownership of property and land in England and Wales.

In a blog on the Budget, ODI associate Peter Wells says this information is a key infrastructure for the economy and should be as accessible and usable as possible, and says there is a need for a caution around selling it off.

He also points to the Government having disposed of an extensive list of address data when it sold Royal Mail in 2013. Creating a new address register would effectively rebuild a list that had developed over decades, and selling the Land Registry could create the pressure to repeat the operation for land data.

Lost control

“When the UK Government privatised the Royal Mail it lost control of address data,” Wells says. “As well as the years of lost benefits, the UK is now having to spend time and money rebuilding address data. It cannot repeat the same mistake with land data.”

He does, however, point to the benefits of an address register, forecasting that it could unlock £110 million of value for UK business.

The Government Digital Service has recently highlighted the intent to develop a 'register ecosystem' to prevent the replication of data and ensure registers are trustworthy. The work is part of its effort to create an efficient data infrastructure for the public sector.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0


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