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How big is the Coins database?

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Martin Rosenbaum | 09:51 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

The shadow chancellor George Osborne would like to see the government's Coins database.

George OsborneThis isn't a store of information on the properties of the nation's loose change, it's the Combined Online Information System and contains the Treasury's detailed analysis of departmental spending under thousands of category headings.

Mr Osborne has promised that if he becomes chancellor he will make it public. Meanwhile the government won't give him access to it, and earlier this year Mr Osborne made a fuss about that.

I put in a freedom of information request for the database. The Treasury has now turned this down. It argues that much of the data is published anyway in aggregate form and that the database itself involves proprietary software whose disclosure would breach commercial confidentiality.

It also told me that the information in Coins could not practically be exported into another programme, because the database contains approximately 2.4 million lines of data. Shortly afterwards an official e-mailed me to say that it actually contains about 24 million lines of data.

Is it normal for Treasury estimates to be out by a factor of 10?


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