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How Open is the UK Government: UK Open Governance Scorecard Results

How open is the UK government?

The UK Open Governance Scorecard provides a comprehensive review of the UK’s legal framework for transparency participation and oversight. Critically it also indicates how the system is working in practice.

Our research finds that the UK’s open governance regime is stronger in practice than in law. The UK government has developed its open governance framework – particularly in proactive disclosure transparency and participation – largely through a patchwork of policy initiatives and procedural guidance. With a few notable exceptions the UK has not developed legislated rights for citizens to access or engage in government, nor created general obligations on public authorities to proactively disclose information or proactively consult. The UK also has a patchwork of different codes of conduct and obligations governing the control and oversight regime at different levels of government.

This approach has strengths. However, there are good reasons to conclude that a light-touch framework, where rights are not enshrined, is not ideal. A policy-driven approach leaves citizens’ vulnerable to changing political winds and to discretion within the public sector about whether and how to commit to openness. Under a policy-driven approach, it is difficult to audit the open data work of public bodies, improve bad practice or achieve consistency where necessary. If an authority wishes to suppress data or access to decision-making, there is little the public or regulators can do to stop it and it would be difficult to find out whether such suppression was happening or not.

This scorecard builds on the ‘in-law’ scorecard, published by TI-UK in March 2014, with an ‘in-practice’ assessment. Together, the report tests the UK against 459 research questions, across 35 standards of open governance. The result is a comprehensive view of strengths and weaknesses in the UK and allows stakeholders to identify particular issues of concern.

The three key recommendations of the report are to:

  1. Empower an open data authority to maintain consistent standards of proactive disclosure across the public sector, with a mandate also covering public services that are outsourced to the private sector, and enable a monitoring and sanctions regime to deliver high and consistent standards.
  1. Reinstate a consistent code of consultation for public sector authorities in particular providing a minimum time period for consultation.
  1. Seek to harmonise the multitude of ethical codes of conduct across the public sector and ensure that registers of interest and gifts and hospitality declarations are published as open data enabling comparability and accountability.

To download the full dataset which forms the basis of the Scorecard report, including all source references and research commentary click here.

To download a methodology description click here.


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  • Report published: Sep 2015

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