Public bodies take steps towards greater openness

A new practical guide to help public chairs take the next step towards greater transparency in their organisations has been published jointly by the Institute for Government and the Public Chairs' Forum.

Transparency in Arm's Length Bodies - A Guide to Best Practice encourages public bodies to publish not only data, but also information on the wider issues of what these organisations are there to do: how they are governed; how they make decisions; how well they perform and how to access or complain about their activities. It identifies the key components of "useful" transparency in public bodies and puts the needs of citizens and customers at its heart. Research undertaken for the report suggests that casting light on these issues will be important to improving overall public confidence in public bodies.

The guide is the result of an extensive series of interviews and meetings with senior officials in public bodies, public chairs, government departments, oversight and citizen advisory groups, academia, the private sector and not-for-profit sector, and the Cabinet Office.

Key principles

The guide suggests that information presented by Arms Length Bodies (ALBs) should be:

  • readily accessible and useable
  • relevant to the needs of different audiences
  • timely
  • put in context and explained and
  • proportionate

The guide also features practical tips on how ALB websites should be organised, and offers advice on improving overall transparency. To make things simple for users, it recommends that all public bodies organise the information they provide under four headings:

  • customers and citizens - the services we offer, how to get involved and how to give feedback
  • performance - how we are doing
  • governance - how we are run and how we make decisions
  • data - the data we hold

The guide also gives additional measures that public bodies requiring the highest degree of openness can consider.

More information