countculture

Open data and all that

New feature: one-click FoI requests for spending payments

with 4 comments

Thanks to the incredible work of Francis Irving at WhatDoTheyKnow, we’ve now added a feature I’ve wanted on OpenlyLocal since we started imported the local spending data: one-click Freedom of Information requests on individual spending items, especially those large ones.

This further lowers the barriers to armchair auditors wanting to understand where the money goes, and the request even includes all the usual ‘boilerplate’ to help avoid specious refusals. I’ve started it off with one to Wandsworth, whose poor quality of spending data I discussed last week.

And this is the result, the whole process having taken less than a minute:

The requests are also being tagged. This means that in the near future you’ll be able to see on a transaction page if any requests have already been made about it, and the status of those requests (we’re just waiting for WDTK to implement search by tags), which will be the beginning of a highly interconnected transparency ecosystem.

In the meantime it’s worth checking the transaction hasn’t been requested before confirming your request on the WDTK page (there’s a link to recent requests for the council on the WDTK form you get to after pressing the button).

I’m also trusting the community will use this responsibly, digging out information on the big stuff, rather than firing off multiple requests to the same council for hundreds of individual items (which would in any case probably be deemed vexatious under the terms of the FoI Act). At the moment the feature’s only enabled on transactions over £10,000.

Good places to start would be those multi-million-pound monthly payments which indicate big outsourcing deals, or large redacted payments (Birmingham’s got a few). Have a look at the spending dashboard for your council and see if there are any such payments.

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4 Responses

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  1. Super. The user experience is very low hassle.

    RE:”At the moment the feature’s only enabled on transactions over £10,000.”

    Building the behaviour into the tool like that is a very good idea. Petitions to MPs and FoI services without these types of constraints can be used like DDoS otherwise, and everyone looses out that way.

    Have posted a FoI over at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/information_on_transaction_31442

    David Pidsley

    October 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Brook, dan mcquillan, Brenda Burrell, Paul Geraghty, Martin Reeves and others. Martin Reeves said: RT @CountCulture: New @OpenlyLocal feature: one-click FoI requests for spending payments http://bit.ly/9g1c2U #opendata #foi #localgov [...]

  3. If anyone wants to do something similar to Chris on their ownsite, here’s documentation of the WhatDoTheyKnow features he used:

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/api

    Francis Irving

    October 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  4. [...] New feature: one-click FoI requests for spending payments >> countculture“Thanks to the incredible work of Francis Irving at WhatDoTheyKnow, we’ve now added a feature I’ve wanted on OpenlyLocal since we started imported the local spending data: one-click Freedom of Information requests on individual spending items, especially those large ones.” [...]


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