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FIVE HUNDRED PDFs 'optimise clarity', say bureaucrats

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The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has defended its decision to release more than 500 PDF maps of proposed Parliamentary constituencies, stating that they believe they provided "an appropriate level of detail".

On 13 September the BCE launched a 12-week consultation on the layout of new constituency boundaries and published nine regional maps and 500 constituency PDFs for the public to access online. The PDFs were created by Ordnance Survey.

The decision was criticised by data journalists at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph for lack of transparency, after the BCE did not provide a more user-friendly single UK map of the new constituency boundaries.

Alasdair Rae, an academic from the University of Sheffield, subsequently created the map from existing information available on the 8,000 electoral wards.

The BCE's decision to use PDFs was criticised by Chris Taggart, the developer of citizen projects OpenlyLocal and OpenCorporates, who told GGC that publishing in PDF was of no use to people who wanted to manipulate data.

"The problem is that organisations like the Boundary Commission decide you can only have this information in a way that you can look at, but can't do anything with," he said, adding that it undermines the commission's role to make sure information "is widely disseminated and easily reused."

A spokeswoman for the BCE told GGC: "The role of the BCE is to make recommendations for new constituency boundaries across the country. In presenting initial proposals, our overriding concern is to optimise transparency and clarity.

"We are looking to support people's involvement in the consultation, so producing regional and constituency maps ensures that an appropriate level of detail is made available to all. We hope that will result in as comprehensive a consultation process as possible."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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