Brown’s giveaway is ‘threat to OS finances’

Brown’s giveaway is ‘threat to OS finances’

Gordon Brown’s announcement that Ordnance Survey mapping data will be given free to the public will kill off the government’s plans to privatise the agency, staff said.

At a Smarter Government seminar in Downing Street, the Prime Minister today announced that OS data would be given away free to make government data more accessible and to deliver services more efficiently.

But the union at OS, which is a trading fund, warned that this was in complete contradiction with OS’ own plans to explore commercial opportunities and find new ways of raising revenue.

Ben Middleton, negotiator for Prospect, the union for professionals, said the announcement also contradicted the call by an efficiency review earlier this year for OS to be more customer-focused and commercially driven.

“This measure will cost Ordnance Survey millions of pounds. The question for OS must be how it will make up that loss.

“It is curious that the government wants to chop off sources of revenue for OS just as it is exploring privatisation options. If this decision is confirmed, it can only mean that the government intends to keep OS in the public sector and abandon the attempt at a sell-off. Naturally we welcome that decision.”

Prospect represents 102,000 scientists, engineers, managers and professionals, including 34,000 specialists in the civil service and non-departmental public bodies. In OS it represents 900 specialist grades, including cartographers, surveyors, IT specialists and marketing staff.