Memorandum by the Local Government Association
(LGA) and the Improvement and Development Agency (IDEA)
The Local Government Association (LGA) promotes
better local government. It works with and for member authorities
to realise a shared vision of local government that enables local
people to shape a distinctive and better future for their locality
and its communities. The LGA aims to put local councils at the
heart of the drive to improve public services and to work with
government to ensure that the policy, legislative and financial
context in which they operate, supports that objective.
The Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA)
aims to make public services the best public services by supporting
self-sustaining improvement from within local government. The
IDeA works in partnership with all councils, to enhance the performance
of the best, accelerate the speed of improvement of the rest,
and develop the sector as a whole.
(a) Local Government is a major user of Ordnance
Survey services and indirectly supplies addressing information
to Ordnance Survey.
(b) Geographic and locational information
are important as enablers to effective and efficient public service
delivery, and to helping citizens help themselves.
(c) It is in the public interest to have
a clear and cost effective approach to the availability and licensing
of information where needed for public services.
(d) IDeA has specific responsibilities to
procure mapping services on behalf of all local government users,
and is responsible for the National Land and Property Gazetteer
that collates details of addresses of properties in every local
(e) There must be a clear distinction between
the public good function and commercial functions of Ordnance
Survey: currently this is unclear and gives rise to disputes over
intellectual property rights and licensing.
(f) There should be robust, independent governance
of principles such as data standards, effective use and accessibility
of information in the public interest, and to ensure equity in
distinguishing public and commercial interests.
(g) Certain locational data falling within
Ordnance Survey control and licensing should be treated as public
good services, including some standard geographies used for presenting
information, and addressing and property location.
(h) Recent steps to establish effective arbitration
are welcome but need strengthening and the roles of the various
bodies concerned clarified.
(i) The Geographic Information Panel has
been valuable in driving work so far in creating a UK Geographic
Information Strategy. The Panel should be time limited: the strategy
will need a different governance structure. Whilst in existence,
the Panel should set a yearly plan with targets and produce an
annual report outlining achievements.
(j) The balance between public and private
sector representation on the Geographic Information Panel is broadly
acceptable. However, membership needs at least one person selected
for expertise in innovation, and the Panel would benefit from
further public service delivery experience.
(k) It would not be appropriate to have the
head of a fully commercial organisation as the sole government
adviser on all aspects of survey, mapping and information: consideration
should be given to a clearer separation of Ordnance Survey public
good and commercial functions.
(l) We do not have evidence to assess the
impact of removing the NIMSA subsidy but would be concerned at
any diminution in the quality of products covering rural areas
that impacted on service quality, and particularly in relation
to the emergency services. Accurate monitoring is needed to provide
evidence to show how product quality is being sustained.
(m) We cannot answer this: the cost for local
government is determined by a procurement that runs to 2009. Ordnance
Survey pricing should provide clarity about whether there is uplift
in costs as a result of NIMSA withdrawal.
(n) Ordnance Survey business models, and
licensing controls give a controlling position over potential
commercial competition. A vibrant and competitive market in the
use and development of geographic information would be of benefit
to local government and therefore to both citizen and taxpayer.
1. The Local Government sector is a major
customer and user of Ordnance Survey services. It is also, indirectly,
a supplier of certain information to Ordnance Survey, particularly
in relation to addressing.
2. The role of data, statistics and information,
including geographic and locational data is growing as an enabler
to effective and efficient public service delivery. This is brought
into sharp focus as citizens increasingly expect high quality,
accessible, efficient and relevant services at reasonable cost,
and by the fact that public expenditure is subject to considerable
3. Geographic information, including that
provided through Ordnance Survey services, is an important, but
still under exploited tool for public service planning, co-ordination
and delivery at all levels. Geographic information aids understanding
of the distinctive characteristics of place, community, economies
and environments. It is therefore important to local service providers
and procurers (including local government) in helping to respond
effectively and efficiently to the varying needs of citizens and
the circumstances of their lives.
This is crucial to successful "place shaping" which
is at the heart of the local government remit as set out in the
recent Local Government White Paper.
4. Local Government directly delivers or
procures a diverse range of services. It is also the local integrator
or key delivery partner for a much wider set of activities across
the social, economic and environmental spectrum, engaging the
public, private and voluntary sector partners in the process.
This involves bringing together and making sense of the complex
array of public policy levers that operate within any particular
area, for example, through Local Area Agreements.
5. Access to, and the sharing of, location
specific data and analysis is of increasing importance to local
authorities. Neighbourhoods within local authorities have discrete
and complex requirements even in comparing adjacent wards, and
the correct base information to allow statistics from multiple
sources (including census data) requires a robust geographic framework
to support them.
For example, Local Strategic Partnerships need an evidence led
approach in assessing the needs of local communities and targeting
service provision. Standards for integrating this geographic information
are important and need partnership between Ordnance Survey, the
user community and the providers of the statistics (including
Office for National Statistics). Geographic information provides:
a diagnostic to inform service delivery;
the means to assess performance and
audit service delivery; and
a means for the public to access
up to date information eg on criminal activity, to enable them
to take appropriate preventative action.
6. Also, where emergency services are needed,
accessibility, accuracy and consistency of locational information
is crucial and, in extremis, a matter of life or death. Further
examples of the importance of geographic information include:
The every child matters agenda,
where education, health and social services need to be co-ordinated
and properly informed at the local delivery point by the best
intelligence and data, particularly in relation to safeguarding
Waste and environmental health.
Tackling crime and disorder.
Co-ordinating the work of utilities
by sharing information on cables, water mains, gas mains and telecoms
lines and mapping this onto highways data: for example, to plan
road works to ensure efficient use of resources and minimise disruption
to the public.
Route planning via integrated transport
planners showing train, bus and other transport interchanges.
Sustainable development and environment
protection, for example in meeting increasing housing needs and
protecting the environment.
7. Geographic information plays a key role
in empowering citizens to access services, helping individuals
and communities help themselves. For example using addresses as
spatial reference, citizens can report abandoned vehicles, fly
tipping, graffiti, uneven paving stones, suspicious activities,
notify changes of address etc via contact centres or websites.
8. Local Government also generates significant
geographic and locational data, for example a statutory requirement
to create addresses resulting from new development through naming
and numbering. Current difficulties in ensuring consistency between
the major agencies involved in recording addresses (Royal Mail,
Ordnance Survey and IDeA) indicate that there is still much to
be done in this area.
9. It is strongly in the public interest
to have a clear and cost effective approach to the availability
and licensing of data, statistics and evidence where needed to
deliver services for the benefit of the public.
10. IDeA holds some specific responsibilities
which have led to a long engagement with Ordnance Survey in two
IDeA has procured, on behalf of all
local government users, a comprehensive set of mapping services
that cover local government needs. The agreement supporting this
arrangement (the Mapping Services Agreement) covers services from
three suppliers including Ordnance Survey. The Ordnance Survey
elements represent annual licence fees to Ordnance Survey of over
£17.5 million pa (covering requirements for England, Wales
and Scotland, including Police, Fire and National Parks alongside
local authority usage). 574 authorities benefit from this collective
procurement. This procurement in 2005 was a precursor to a similar
process led by the Department for Communities and Local Government
for the rest of the public sector (currently out to tender).
IDeA is responsible for the National
Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG)this collates details
of addresses for all properties in every local area. This dataset
has been subject to engagement between IDeA and Ordnance Survey
over several years: issues over licensing of this data remain
intractable despite effort on several fronts over recent months.
Question 1In 2002 the Committee's predecessor,
the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, concluded
in its report on Ordnance Survey: "there is a clear need
to define the boundaries of Ordnance Survey public service and
national interest work." To what extent has the position
changed in the intervening five years?
11. We believe that the findings described
in Question 1 are as relevant today as they were in 2002, and
that they need to be acted on. The proposed UK Geographic Information
Strategy needs to provide a framework to help address this if
the Strategy comes to fruition and is sufficiently resourced to
be deliverable. Also, if effective arbitration processes had existed
the problems in relation to establishing a single addressing infrastructure,
which are commented on elsewhere in this document, may not have
12. There must be a clear distinction between
the public good function of Ordnance Survey, and the commercial
role of the Ordnance Survey as a trading fund. This distinction
is unclear, and not written into the Ordnance Survey Trading Fund
(1999) or Ordnance Survey Framework (2004) definitions of Ordnance
Survey's role. The result is continued questioning over intellectual
property rights and licensing issues, and disputes that inhibit
public good purposes.
13. The former should be accessible and
available on a basis that is analogous to national statistics
(there is an argument that some core geographic data should be
classified as national or official statistics): ie available without
undue constraint or prohibitive cost to all who require them in
the public interest. We therefore broadly support the findings
of the Office for Fair Trading report that Public Information
Holders separate their remits for "refined and unrefined"
data ie that Trading Funds like Ordnance Survey should make commercial
use of their own unrefined data on the same basis as that available
to other commercial users of that data. The Prime Ministers Strategy
Unit has endorsed some of these conclusions in a recent report.
14. There should be robust and independent
governance to provide guardianship of principles such as data
standards and effective use and accessibility in the public interest,
and to ensure that the distinction between public and commercial
interests is equitable. One model for this might be that in the
Statistics and Registration Services Bill (at the time of writing
before Parliament). The Bill:
Provides for guardianship and scrutiny
of national and official statistics.
Aims to ensure confidence in these
Includes a duty on the proposed board
to recognise the public good role of such statistics.
15. There are locational data that, in varying
ways, fall within Ordnance Survey control and licensing that should
be defined as public good services, including:
Relevant "core reference geographies"
where not the responsibility of others (for example Defra in relation
to certain statutory designations) as a means of presenting statistics
and data (where appropriate) at consistent and therefore comparable
geographic levels: for example by local government boundaries
or by census output areas; and
Addressing and property location:
the ability to identify accurately people and property is necessary
for effective public service delivery across the spectrum, be
it the alleviation of poverty, effective planning for education,
levying tax, emergency service delivery, national security etc.
There should be a single, definitive system for addressing and
property location as a public good without any unnecessary intellectual
property, licensing, cost or other constraints on use and accessibility.
Whilst we understand why the Advisory Panel
on Public Sector Information (APPSI) might conclude that addressing
is outside Ordnance Survey's "public task"
given the terms of Ordnance Survey's remit as set out in the Trading
Fund (1999) and Framework (2004) definitions, we believe that
this is not in the public interest. We are therefore also very
concerned by the recent Department for Communities and Local Government
statement that it does wish to pursue a single National Spatial
Local authorities currently provide addressing
information to Royal Mail and thereby to Ordnance Survey for their
Address-Point commercial product (with councils receiving no recognition
or recompense). Ordnance Survey licensing constrains local government
from generating income directly from this same information, for
example, to help cover the costs of maintaining its address databases.
Rather than sustaining this fraught situation, a single address
system created and maintained as a public good on the basis proposed
in this document would resolve this complex and ultimately costly
dispute. It would also bring the benefits of the local authority
system which also includes the identification of buildings that
don't have addresses to be identified: clearly a matter of importance
to the emergency services for example.
Such an outcome would be consistent with early
Geographic Information Panel work in developing a UK Geographic
Information Strategy which also pointed to the value of developing
a single addressing / property location infrastructure.
17. The approach outlined above would also
be consistent with:
The recent EU INSPIRE Directive that
requires certain data sets to be publicly available at no (or
modest) cost , establishes principles for sharing certain core
data; and the need for government to adopt one reference version
of any definitive core data set.
Wider developments in the provision
and sharing of data, including those from Cabinet Office with
regard to Transformational Government
which sees geographic information as part of the public service
Question 2In 2002, the Select Committee
also identified "a clear need for some form of independent
arbitration so that conflicts could be resolved" between
OS and its partners and customers. To what extent has that position
changed in the intervening five years?
18. There are also some distinct issues
that surround the need for effective arbitration: for example,
arbitration is not, as far as we are aware, available to licensed
users of OS data (the terms of such licences are broadly unchanged
since the Select Committee's previous report). Here we believe
that current developments in this direction are welcome but need
considerable strengthening to build on the fact that Ordnance
is within the scope of Public Service
Information Regulations but without sufficiently robust means
to resolve disputes; and
that trading funds are the first
organisations to work within the good practice guidelines of the
Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS). Whilst Ordnance Survey
was initially approved, they were subsequently criticised in a
report on IFTS published in March 2006. The fit between IFTS rule,
Public Service Information Regulations and competition law is
not yet subject to significant case law, but early indications
suggest the processes need development and further effort is needed
to clarify responsibilities.
19. The introduction of a market regulator
should be a significant improvement, however the result has been
slow to bed in and we remain concerned about the extent to which
Office of Public Sector Information recommendations have sufficient
authority. Also, the roles of the Office of Public Sector Information,
the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information and the Office
of Fair Trading are not necessarily clear to the outsider.
Question 3What is your assessment of the
UK Geographic Panel's operation since its introduction in 2005?
20. We welcome the hard work led by the
Panel under Ordnance Survey chairing to develop the basis for
a UK Geographic Information Strategy: we believe this to be the
key purpose for such a Panel. However, we believe that through
no fault of the Panel, this work is inhibited because ministerial
sponsorship is not configured to reflect the UK remit of the Panel
or the cross cutting nature of geographic information which touches
many aspects of public policy and services.
21. We believe however, that the Panel should
be time limited in current form and that an agreed UK geographic
information strategy will need a different governance structure
along the lines described both above in response to questions
1 and 2, and amplified below in response to question 4. Whilst
in existence, we believe that the Panel should set a yearly plan
with targets and produce an annual report outlining achievements.
Question 4The Select committee's predecessor,
in recommending in 2002 that an advisory panel on geographic information
should be created, suggested that it should have at least three
members, including the Association for Geographic Information,
OS and a private sector representative. Is the current panel's
membership sufficiently balanced with three private sector representatives
among its 12 members?
22. This answer to this question requires
clarity about the role and function of the Panel. The private
sector is an innovator and provider of geographic information
services. Effective engagement and dialogue between public, private
and voluntary sector interests is therefore crucial and, for example,
the industry needs to be engaged in any development of a UK Geographic
23. There is no apparent market failure
or equity issue that justifies special public policy treatment
for the geographic information industry per se. It is therefore
appropriate to focus the functions of a Panel and a Strategy on
the public policy and public good dimension of geographic information
and therefore to focus engagement with the private and voluntary
Identifying how the private sector
can help effective delivery of public policy goals and how government
at all levels will work with the industry.
Where geographic information generates
business benefits for the private sector that have potential application
and value for the public sector. Some uses have such commonality,
for example both private and public sectors are interested in
demographic change and the use of geographic information for property
The potential for geographic information
policy and infra structure to support public/private/voluntary
sector partnerships for public service delivery.
24. On this basis, we conclude that insofar
as the panel is to continue, that the balance between public and
private sector representation is broadly acceptable but that there
are two areas for further consideration:
(i) Whether at least one member of the panel
ought to be selected on the basis of expertise in innovation and
cutting edge development and use of geographic information. Such
an individual would most likely be drawn from the private sector,
but if appropriate could come from the academic, voluntary or
public sector; and
(ii) Public sector representation is heavily
biased towards central government. Public service delivery bodies
are effectively confined to the single local government representative.
Whilst we entirely acknowledge the important use that central
government has for geographic information, the bias is out of
kilter with the extent to which public service delivery and therefore
very substantial public expenditure is devolved, and increasingly
accounted for at local level. We suggest an increase in local
public service representation to reflect the high level of usage
within local government and the emergency services, and, increasingly
by health services and others.
25. However, if the Geographic Information
Panel has a role in advising the Government on how it can best
help British industry to exploit the commercial potential of geographic
information, then there would be justification in increasing private
sector representation on the Panel or its successor body and we
would be content with such an arrangement under these circumstances.
Question 5In a memorandum to the Committee
during its recent inquiry into DCLG's Annual Report 2006, the
Government said that the ending of NIMSA means "there is
no distinction for OS between public service and commercial activity".
If that is the case, should the head of a commercially active
organisation continue, ex officio, to be official adviser to Ministers
on "all aspects of survey, mapping, and geographic information"?
26. We are concerned at the CLG conclusion
as expressed in this question. The public sector, including Ordnance
Survey, are generators of substantial and important data in the
public interest, which are deployed through public policy and
service delivery on behalf of the tax payer, to benefit the citizen.
27. It is inconsistent to treat national
or official statistics such as neighbourhood statistics or the
indices of deprivation as public goods, yet, by implication, treat
their use in understanding locality or community in geographic
terms as indistinct from commercial activity. As indicated earlier,
local authority dependence on the underpinning geographic framework
is substantially growing and commercial charging for their use
in public service delivery is therefore unwelcome.
28. It would not be appropriate to have
the head of a fully commercial organisation as the sole Ministerial
adviser on all aspects of survey, mapping and information. We
believe that clarity in distinguishing what Ordnance Survey provides
for the public good and what is solely a commercial enterprise,
coupled with appropriate governance would go some way to address
the concern that underlies the question, and would address the
conflict of interest that is inherent in the way Ordnance Survey
is currently structured and operates.
29. However, it is important that the adviser
on geographic information issues to government is someone with
a thorough grounding in the issues of geographic information on
the one hand, and the policy framework within which government
operates on the other. The intrusion of bias from commercial interests
cannot be acceptable to those acting on the advice given.
30. Whilst we are concerned with public
good outcomes not institutional structures, it is worth exploring
the extent to which Ordnance Survey can be structured to create
a sharper divide between public good and public good commissioning
functions, and a contractor/provider function that maintains the
public requirement, but has freedom to exploit the underlying
data in delivering other commercial products for which it sees
Question 6What impacts will the ending
of NIMSA have on rural mapping?
31. Local Government is a major geographic
information user and customer of Ordnance Survey and therefore
has a strong interest in the quality of Ordnance Survey's outputs.
We do not have evidence to track the precise impact that removal
of the subsidy has made on the quality of particular products.
We also note that Ordnance Survey has undertaken to maintain all
existing products that received NIMSA support under the local
government Mapping Services Agreement. We would be concerned if
there were any diminution in the quality of relevant products
covering rural areas that impacted on service quality. Many rural
authorities were not content with the rural revision cycle whilst
NIMSA was in place. Any reduction in that cycle could potentially
have detrimental effects on the ability to deliver services, and
is of particular concern in relation to the emergency services.
32. Councils cover the full range of communities
and localities from dense urban infrastructure to remote rural
areas and we believe that equal accuracy and consistency of Ordnance
Survey products is necessary across this spectrum: for example,
there are risks to emergency planning and environmental health
activity if quality declines in future. If the most likely impact
is on the frequency of updates to rural mapping data, this could
have significant implications where, for example, large housing
or road development takes place in the intervening period. Local
authorities may be able to counter some of the impact as they
maintain land and property gazetteers that keep address data up-to-date
based on their own internal intelligence based on customer services,
planning, tax, electoral and other services. However, linking
this information to up to date mapping data is still vital tool
as a tool for monitoring such functions.
33. We believe that accurate monitoring
of Ordnance Survey activity costs and impacts is therefore necessary
to provide evidence to demonstrate that product quality is being
sustained. We support suggestions in OFT's report on Commercial
Use of Public Information and other sources, that Ordnance Survey's
financial mechanisms for supporting products should be given greater
clarity. Whilst local government, through the Mapping Services
Agreement has negotiated a regional Key Performance Indicator
on Ordnance Survey to monitor mapping revision, the current government
target to monitor Ordnance Survey mapping revision is limited
to a national average. It is therefore, currently, difficult to
monitor the effects of the removal of NIMSA in individual rural
authorities from published figures.
Question 7Will the procurement of necessary
services be more expensive for local authorities now that OS is
not providing them under NIMSA?
34. We are not in a position to give a definitive
answer. This is partly because of the procurement cycle employed
in contracting with Ordnance Survey on behalf of all local authorities
under the Mapping Services Agreement. The current Agreement runs
35. We have seen no direct impact in terms
of prices of current products supplied under the current Agreement
as the charges for the relevant products were defined for a four
year period as part of the initial negotiation. Our system imposes
quality requirements on suppliers, and it is unclear whether the
withdrawal of NIMSA will result in lower quality for existing
data provided by Ordnance Survey, but none is apparent to date.
36. We believe that clear visibility of
Ordnance Survey pricing mechanisms would allow better understanding
of whether NIMSA withdrawal has an impact on pricing at the time
of the next procurement of the Mapping Services Agreement.
Question 8Some OS competitors allege it
is able to use its position as a public sector information holder
to compete unfairly, either by imposing over-stringent and costly
licence conditions or by developing products of its own in direct
competition with theirs but without the associated licensing costs.
There are further complaints that OS is an effective monopoly,
preventing fair and transparent competition in the geographic
information market. What is your view of these suggestions?
37. We believe that there are a number of
risks that result when the trading fund model is imposed on an
organisation with a combination of public good and commercial
objectives unless strong safeguards are in place. The temptation
for government is to rigidly require that commercial activity
funds public good objectives: there may be occasions where this
works, but this is far from universal. The temptation for the
organisation is likely to be to maximise competitive advantage
with the risk that this results in exploiting public sector information
38. We believe that Ordnance Survey business
models, and licensing controls do give a controlling position
over potential commercial competition, for example, in using addressing
products, including those generated by local government (though
please note our primary desire to see a single, public good system
as outlined in response to question 1). We believe that the Office
of Fair Trading CUPI Study, the Office of Public Sector Information
report and APPSI recommendations all point to this conclusion.
For example, APPSI in their recent assessment suggested that Ordnance
Survey addresspoint product data do not fall within the public
sector information, yet they are provided under crown copyright
by an organisation within the public sector.
39. It is our view that Ordnance Survey
business models restrict the entrance of a wider set of geographic
information data providers in several areas of mapping services.
The conditions to create a vibrant and competitive market in such
information would be of benefit to local government as a major
user of the information. Our experience in the Mapping Services
Agreement indicates that competitors can, when they secure a market
entry, compete on both quality and price with Ordnance Survey,
and we would welcome an extension to other areas. Aspects of this
issue relating to the citizen's use of geographic information
are argued strongly in the recent Prime Ministers Strategy Unit
report"the Power of Information".
40. Also, where Ordnance Survey bundle data
collection and management costs, data delivery costs and customer
support costs into individual product license fees, it has been
possible for local government to establish Best Value in the procurement
of geographic information and supporting services. The Mapping
Service Agreement procurement highlighted that Ordnance Survey
data could be tailored, supplied and supported by third party
organizations in innovative ways and for potentially better value
for money, if it were not for the license and pricing model adopted
by Ordnance Survey.
68 The Society of Information Technology Management
(SOCTIM) report Planning for ICT: the technology architecture
published in 2004 identifies the "use of Geographic Information
System packages based on Ordnance Survey and NPLG, linked to operational
services such as planning and development control, land charges,
national land information service, highways and all addressed
based systems such as Council Tax, rents, benefits, electoral
register, refuse collection, non-domestic rating and environmental
health inspections" as beneficial both in improving customer
satisfaction and in improving efficiency through greater accuracy
in referencing systems. Back
The East Sussex in Figures (ESIF) database is an example of
how a local authority is able to draw together a wide range of
data geographically-this can be accessed via the East Sussex County
Council website. Back
An English policy initiative: parallel initiatives exist in
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Back
The East Sussex County Council Access East Sussex common access
fault reporting system initiative is an example, winning an Association
of Geographic Information award. Back
The Power of Information-Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg, June 2007. Back
Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information publishes review
of OPSI recommendations with regard to complaint SO 42/8/4, April
Statement by Communities and Local Government on 1 June 2007.
The aim of the National Spatial Address Infrastructure (NSAI)
project was to provide a single national address database that
would be maintained through a partnership approach and a collaborative
framework of address and property identifiers. In June 2007 the
Department announced it would not be carrying out any further
work on the NSAI at this time. Back
An English policy initiative. There are parallel initiatives
in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (in the latter, it is
Making the Connections. Back