Monday, November 20, 2006

Postcode lottery

According to this piece in The Guardian last week there is a row brewing over the use of postcodes by local authorities.

The basic process is that a planning application is submitted for a house or a road and is then approved. The council then creates the basic address and sends it to the Royal mail where the Post code is added. Because the accurate data that councils use contains post codes and geographic information from the ordnance survey they end up paying to use data which they helped to create in the first place.

An example given in the article goes as follows "When a local authority puts its schools admission system online, as required by the e-government programme, it must pay Royal Mail if it wants to allow residents to search for a school by postcode."

Apparently this is not new and the charges have been in place for years. The latest row has been triggered by a proposal to double the charges to local councils from October next year.
It seems that battles over copyright and revenues from address data have ruined previous attempts to create a single national database of addresses.

The logical conclusion is that local authorities want to charge the Post Office each time they make use of the basic part of the address if they are going to have to pay to use the Post Code. And surely the Royal Mail wants everyone to use the accurate post code to help them to deliver post correctly. What next? If I give my house a name instead of a number can I charge other bodies for using that name. Surely it is fairly fundamental data which should be available free of charge and something should be done to make this data freely in the public domain.

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