Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Postcode charges threatens split between councils and Post Office

Worryingly, the government’s insistence that every chunk of data somehow be turned into an asset in itself – rather than an asset to whoever uses it – is creating fissures between councils, which generate addresses, and the Post Office, which charges them for using postcodes.

Read more at A one-way street to postcode madness in today’s Guardian:

Councils say they provide lists of street names and numbers for free – but Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail treat their data as a commercial asset and charge other public bodies to make it available to the wider public.

…Royal Mail says that the sums are tiny: authorities pay 0.5p a click, or a flat fee per domain. However, councils, under constant pressure to meet new centrally set financial targets, have little slack in their budgets. The final straw is that from October next year, the charge will double. Jennie Longden, head of address management at Royal Mail, says that these are the first price increases since 1995.

The result, though, could be a grassroots rebellion. David Heyes, address manager at Wigan metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester, says he is “very uncomfortable” with the click fee.

….Datastandard, a web community for professionals, has suggested charging Royal Mail between £250 and £1,000 for notifications of changes to local gazetteers. “I suggest Royal Mail pass on some of their costs to Ordnance Survey, but that’s for them to sort out,” said Robert Kimber, of Luton council.

Would that be good for free data? No – it’s moving in the opposite direction. What’s needed is a minister or two to bang some heads together. Unfortunately it seems the heads that need banging are within government – possibly inside the Treasury – to stop this madness.

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