Public bodies need a statutory basis to share information. Currently, there is no single piece of legislation which empowers public bodies to share information for the benefit of public service delivery. Instead, public bodies need to rely on a range of disparate powers, some of which may be general in nature and not necessarily fit for purpose; the Digital Economy Act (2017) provides an opportunity to address this problem. It introduces new information and data sharing powers for public bodies to improve delivery of public services and to reduce fraud and debt against the public sector; for a public body to be able to share information, they need to be specified in the legislation.
The UK Government is preparing to set four objectives for the public service delivery powers — multiple disadvantages, television retuning, fuel poverty and water poverty. The devolved governments are required to name the devolved bodies that they wish to be able to make use of the new public service delivery objectives and debt and fraud powers. They also need to inform the UK Government which of the above objectives should be allocated to the various devolved bodies to enable them to share data in support of those objectives.
As discussed on this blog previously, better data sharing enables better outcomes for citizens, greater efficiency and provides evidence to support policy making and evaluation. This also links to the ambitions set by the Welsh Government’s Open Data Plan (2016). However, the challenges associated with sharing data between public bodies, including the confusion or misinterpretation of the legal landscape, have been identified as barriers to effective public service delivery. This consultation thus seeks views on:
- the proposed list of public bodies (and bodies which provide services to public bodies) the Welsh Government intends to name;
- objectives for data sharing that the Welsh Government could set for Wales in the future.
This is a shorter eight week consultation rather than the standard 12 weeks, as the Welsh Government would like to be able to make use of the objectives set out in the new UK Government regulations (which are expected to put forward in Parliament in early 2018). Thus, for public bodies in Wales to be able to use the new data sharing powers, they will need to provide a confirmed list of
public bodies in Wales before that date. You can access the following information online:
- full consultation document;
- Annex a: proposed Welsh public bodies able to share data under specified powers;
- Annex b: list of disadvantages that can be considered under the Multiple Disadvantages objective;
- Annex c: full list of proposed Welsh public bodies to be named in the regulations.
This consultation runs until 5 February 2018.