The government has been criticised for delays in publishing a flagship transparency document and warned that the hold up could hinder the UK’s progress on open government.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was due to publish the latest Open Government Action Plan, which details key objectives to boost transparency, last December following a consultation, but is now almost six weeks behind schedule.
The document needs to be produced every two years as part of the UK’s commitments in the global Open Government Partnership, where countries commit to improving government transparency and accountability.
The UK was a founder member of partnership, which now includes 79 countries, when then prime minster David Cameron helped launch the scheme as part of a global transparency drive in 2011.
Previous editions led to a groundbreaking register of company ownership being set up, as well as strides forward in open-access government data such as the publication of aid funding.
However, transparency groups that make up the Open Government Network – which includes the Electoral Reform Society, the Institute for Government and Transparency International – fear work on fourth edition document may have been held up by the Brexit process.
The group has written to digital minister Margot James urging her to not to use the UK’s impending departure from the EU as an “excuse for inaction”.
They said the delay “risks undermining the UK’s position as an international leader on open government, our role in setting the agenda on a global stage and implementing domestic reform”.
Jess Blair of the Electoral Reform Society and member of the Open Government Network steering group accused ministers of “stalling”.
“The government must not hide behind Brexit as an excuse for inaction on this front,” she told Civil Service World’s sister publication PoliticsHome.
“The government must not hide behind Brexit as an excuse for inaction on this front,” she added.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett also called for the government to publish the plan as soon as possible. He told PoliticsHome: “As we have seen time and time again, when secrecy dominates, bad decisions follow.
“It is vital that transparency is at the heart of government, especially in times of great upheaval, and I fully support calls from citizens groups and campaign organisations for the government to dramatically up its game.”