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Coins request rejected by Treasury

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Martin Rosenbaum | 08:58 UK time, Monday, 29 March 2010

For several months I have been trying to get access to the Treasury's Coins database - the Combined Online Information System - which contains a detailed analysis of state expenditure.

The Treasury I'm not the only one who would like to see this information. For a start there's George Osborne, who may or may not soon be in a position to give effect to his wish.

And as well, there's the data campaigner Julian Todd who's been using whatdotheyknow, the Open Knowledge Foundation which also aims to open up state data, and the excellent Guardian datablog, which last week reported "hints" that the government was about to make Coins accessible to the public.

Well, if they are opening it up, they're not doing so to me. Last September the Treasury rejected my freedom-of-information request for the contents of the database. Now they have just dismissed [1.63MB PDF] my appeal against that decision.

Amongst other reasons the Treasury maintains that this is necessary to protect intellectual property rights and commercial confidentiality, that already published data is more meaningful, and that some of the material is protected by specific exemptions.

It also argues that the Treasury's work would be disrupted by "misinterpretation of the 23 million lines of raw and unvalidated data" and by "a high volume of follow-up requests and enquiries".

However it did send me a schema of field headers, which is already available here. I am now taking the case to the information commissioner.


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