A local journalist has started a project designed to make Preston Council more transparent.Advertisement
Daniel Bentley, who is currently studying at the University of Central Lancashire, has created ‘Open Preston‘ – a web application that shows Preston’s food safety ratings, recent planning applications, information about Preston’s councillors and areas of deprivation in the city.
Visitors to Open Preston can browse the information in list or map form, and also look at the original data.
Daniel Bentley said: “Open Preston is about taking the data the council has made available and presenting it in a more open, transparent and accesible way.
“For example the council website lists the addresses of all city councillors but on Open Preston you can see on a map where they live and see if they live in the ward they represent.”
Open Preston has been created using free tools from Google – their map software and a spreadsheet tool called Fusion Tables.
Daniel hopes that his project will not only show other journalists what can be done with local authority data, but also spur the council into being more transparent with their information.
“The council need to release all their data in a machine readable format. Some council documents are still released in PDF format – which is fine if you want to print something off but close to useless if you want to analyse the data in it.
“Also, some data is locked up in the website and the council refuse to open this up.
“For example, the data about planning applications and food safety ratings. I asked for this information in a spreadsheet format and they refused. I had to rope in some hackers from a website called ScraperWiki to pull the data out of the website into a spreadsheet.”
“It shouldn’t need to exist if all the data was made available in a presentable format in the first place. It’s also to show what other journalists can do with data.
“I have very basic computer programming skills but I was able to learn enough to create the visualisations for the project.”
Find Daniel on Twitter @DJBentley