Brighton and Hove Green chief eyes open goal

A leading Green politician has spelt out his party’s progress in bringing a more open style of government to Brighton and Hove.

Councillor Jason Kitcat posted a blog about efforts to advance “the cause of openness and transparency in everything Brighton and Hove City Council does”.

He posted his blog with less than a week to go before Brighton hosts Britain’s first Open Data Cities Conference which takes place at the Corn Exchange on Friday (20 April).

Greg Hadfield

The conference, organised by Greg Hadfield, the journalist and internet entrepreneur from Fiveways, aims to help build more creative, prosperous and accountable communities.

The speakers include leaders from the public sector, arts and cultural organisations and the creative and digital industries.

They share a passion for improving people’s lives by making information and technology more useful and accessible to more people.

Councillor Kitcat, who is expected to become the leader of the council next month, wrote: “As we approach the one-year mark for the Green administration’s term in office, I’d like to reflect on where we are with advancing the cause of openness and transparency in everything Brighton and Hove City Council does as it’s one of my cabinet responsibilities.

“Here’s the rundown: the council has adopted the Open Government Licence as its default licence for all publications.

“This means our work can be reused by others around the world without cost or permission being needed. It is a licence compatible with Creative Commons and Open Data Commons licences.

“By default the council is now publishing information in more detail than before. This is an ongoing process of changes in internal culture and practices.

“With the 2012-13 budget-setting process, far greater detail on every aspect of the proposals was published, earlier than ever before.

“We are in process of procuring a new Public Sector Network jointly with partner public sector bodies. This network will be platform-agnostic and will link with the networks of other councils in the south east region to allow us to jointly procure and run IT services.

“We are working with MySociety to adapt their WhatDoTheyKnow system to support a better workflow for freedom of information requests and proactive publishing of everything we release.

“We are publishing increasing amounts of open data in open formats, including map data for councils services and assets.

“Council rules and protocols have been significantly amended to now allow reuse of meeting webcasts, to allow use of mobile devices in meetings and to permit audio recordings of meetings.”

Councillor Jason Kitcat

As an opposition member he was accused of breaching the standards of behaviour expected of a councillor when he posted webcast clips on YouTube. He was eventually cleared of misconduct.

He also wrote: “The council is now using open source software in some areas, for example Open Office for some teams. We are seeking to phase out the current blanket, long term Microsoft licensing arrangements we inherited in favour of more cost-effective, open and service-appropriate packages.

“This May we will deliver on our manifesto commitment to move to a committee system of decision-making.

“This will involve councillors of all parties and provide a more open way for decisions to be debated and voted on.

“There’s still plenty more to do, much more data to open and we could be more systematic in how we do that.

“There’s lots to do with our software and in progressing cultural change.

“We’re also working with our webcasting provider to move to a more cross-platform video solution that enables people to access meeting webcasts on a greater array of devices.”

He concluded by asking: “Let me know your thoughts on progress so far and what more we could be doing next.”

To buy one of the few remaining tickets for the Open Data Cities Conference, click here.

  1. Valerie Paynter, Reply

    Note all this ‘open data’, wonderful as it will be, will only be open to those who are computer literate, have access to computers and wish to use computers.

    BHCC withdrew walk-in right of public access to new/live planning applications on 1st January 2012, effectively forcing a still-large section of the public to judge a planning application by its site notice on a pole or within the neighbour consultation letter posted to as few as 3 people or several dozen, depending.

    This letter has not offered other ways of viewing than online. They can’t tick the equalities box on this one and there is no apology for disenfranchising those unable or unwilling to use a computer to access material.

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