Posts tagged ‘DCLG’
Emailing the Government is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
2 years ago I asked Data.gov.uk about public toilet data. An unnamed person replied. They then contacted an unnamed person at DCLG on my behalf, and relayed the conversation to me. I’ve no idea who either were, but it worked. Thanks guys!
Later in my research I emailed the generic email address at DCLG about public toilets. I had to, as it wasn’t clear which more specific department or email address public toilets would fall under (I’m not sure DCLG know). I never heard back.
I then emailed someone in DCLG responsible for public toilets (according to the person I knew in DCLG who looked it up on their database), but I didn’t hear back then either. (Don’t really blame them, to be honest)
I also emailed my MP, and she replied by post (she always does, thus using a stamp and fancy House of Commons stationery – very nice but a bit peculiar and unnecessary. I digress..). She contacted a Minister on my behalf, and then posted me a printout of his typed response. Success! And evidence that, if you’ve got 2 months to wait around, an additional level of bureaucracy works.
Earlier this month I emailed a reply to that letter from the Minister to let him know that we’d done everything that he’d suggested (somewhat coincidentally) but that the project was ending and that perhaps the government would see the potential in taking the work on instead. Someone on Twitter just said how good my letter was, so I re-read it, and you know what? They’re right. It’s here: Public Toilets and … ?
Well I’ve just received a reply in a mere 3 weeks, not from the Minister, but from someone in the Decentralisation and Neighbourhoods team. It doesn’t really reply to my letter, but it does suggest that they’d at least read it, and it tells me about the useful things that DCLG are currently up to that may assist me in my public toilet open data work (that is, if we were doing it anymore.)
Thoughtful, and helpful, and lots to think about, if a little random. I’ve published it below.
Sooo, what shall I do next?
Dear Ms Ramster,
Public Toilet Open Data
Thank you for your email of 8 February about your work in developing public toilet open data and ‘the Great British Public Toilet Map’.
I note your concerns about the availability of public toilet open data on local authority websites and agree that making more local data publicly available is important.
Did you know there’s a ‘Public Toilets Suitable For All‘ e-petition on the Government’s official website? I’ve put a link on the right if you wish to sign.
It calls for a change to the law so that local authorities are legally required to provide public toilets.
(at the moment they ‘can’ provide them, but they don’t have to).
For a long time I’d gone off this idea. The argument against this (that I’ve heard, at least) is that local authorities are more responsive to local demands than national government interference and being forced to provide something can be seen within local government as a bureaucratic burden, or a distraction, from the real work of providing services.
Translation: What’s the point?
Local DirectGov, who are a central place that people can go to to search for local (government) services, have made a widget that allows you to ‘locate public toilets’ by typing in a postcode. In return it gives you a link to the council webpage for public toilets for the area that the postcode falls under.
Now, copy and pasting the html for that widget into my blog (post) doesn’t work (though I’m sure the widget does) which is a damn shame as I’m only writing this post as an excuse to try it out. However I don’t know html so beyond copy/paste there’s not much I can do about it.
Here’s a picture of it instead:
If you go to http://mycouncil.direct.gov.uk/index.html you can try the search for other council functions, or if you want to try adding ‘locate toilets’ or something else to your own site, you can try it yourself at http://innovate-apps.direct.gov.uk/widgets/localservices/
In any case, the toilet widget only works for postcodes in… London.
Local Directgov don’t have the links to all the council webpages for public toilets. They never asked the councils for them and the councils never provided them.
Our funding application to continue developing public toilet open data and The Great British Public Toilet Map was rejected by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
Our research into public toilets was funded by the ESRC. When a research project ends, there is sometimes ‘follow-on funding’ available, in order to develop anything unexpected that has come out of the work (rather than letting all that work go to waste!).
Our proposal for follow-on funding had 3 reviewers.
- One reviewer LOVED it.
- The second thought it ‘extremely worthy‘ , but had trouble understanding what we proposed to do, which is our fault.
- The third thought it ‘extremely important‘, but that local government, or their national bodies like the Local Government Association, should be the ones undertaking this work (and not the ESRC) or at least providing the funding, since public toilets are in their remit.
I wasn’t going to blog about being RUNNER-UP in the TSO OPEN.UP competition.
Then someone said “I hope you’re going to blog about being runner-up in the TSO Open.Up competition”
So I am.
TSO Open.Up was an ideas competition for ideas that use government data.
Public Toilets and … is enjoying its Christmas holidays, which consists largely of visiting relatives and shopping. Consequently I am gaining new experiences of the public toilets found in trains and shopping centres, neither of which I have many qualms with. Bliss.
During the festive period my guest article on The Guardian’s Local Government Professional Network site was published, about the benefits of texting as a means of Public – Provider communication, using the City of Westminster’s SatLav system as an example.
Some addditional information that relates to the article can be found here:
Happy New Year.
An official response from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on public toilets!
This is the new government’s position, in response to my long (and in hindsight, slightly insane) email to my local MP, which, being 5 pages, none of you are going to read, so I’ll just say that the recommendations that the response refers to as ‘Ms Knight’s proposals’ were actually the recommendations of the 2008 DCLG Select Committee that I just happen to agree with.
I thought maybe, just maybe, the new government would reconsider the previous rejection of the Select Committee recommendations (actually I didn’t, but figured that I shouldn’t leave any stone unturned).