Points of View 29th April 2015

Faces of the UK Open Government Network – Jennifer Tankard, Community Investment Coalition

by Josephine Suherman-Bailey

Josephine was a Policy Analyst at Involve. She worked on the Open Government Partnership and supported the coordination of the UK Open Government Partnership civil society network.

Open government can be an abstract idea. We want to give people a better idea of what it is, and who is in the UK Open Government Civil Society Network. We’ve asked some existing members of the network to give us their thoughts on what open government means to them, why it’s important, where they have seen open government make a difference to the lives of citizens, and the reforms they would ask of government.

We’ll be publishing a series of profiles of members of the network every few weeks, so keep a lookout! Our sixth blog is Jennifer Tankard, Community Investment Coalition

Jennifer Tankard, Community Investment Coalition

JT fotIt is accepted that good government and good governance are intrinsically linked to openness and transparency. The UK Open Government Forum has played a key role in ensuring the UK Government actively engages with and implements the principles of open government.

But the state is only one player in a complex web of organisations providing goods and services that are essential to the smooth running of society. Energy, water and broadband are recognised as ‘essential’ services but as they are delivered by private sector companies the same rules of openness are not applied. Regulatory frameworks are supposed to protect consumers from abuse but with levels of trust at an all time low this clearly isn’t sufficient. A 2013 report by Which? found that only one in seven consumers (15%) trusted energy companies to act in their best interest. The lack of transparency in the industry is partly to blame for the lack of trust.

The Community Investment Coalition believes financial services are also ‘essential’. It is almost impossible to participate in the mainstream economy without access to basic financial tools, such as a transactional bank account and access to credit. That is why we have campaigned for transparency in the financial services markets, specifically calling for the disclosure of lending data. Data disclosure can help to tackle financial exclusion by providing area-based lending information to identify local lending markets and finance providers and identify market gaps. In December 2013, the British Bankers Association (BBA) and Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) started to publish aggregated data on bank lending. This data is helping those trying to tackle financial exclusion to better understand the geographical nature of the problem and identify targeted local solutions.

There must be a case to argue that where commercial organisations are delivering services that are essential to society and are the main provider then open government principles should apply to their activities. It might also help to improve levels of trust.

Jennifer Tankard is Director of the Community Investment Coalition, which campaigns for access to affordable finance for all communities. Follow us @BankingBetter