Getting data out of DirectGov

Mashing up Direct GovOn Saturday at BarCampUKGovWeb I asked whether it was possible to use the data from DirectGov to direct website users to their local government services, without needing to send them via the pretty orange pages of

Thanks for a tip-off from Paul Clarke, I got in touch with Andy Key from Hampshire who has helped out with a few pointers to some currently unofficial (but possibly soon-to-be-supported) ways of making use of Local Direct Gov data:

The answer is No, Yes, and Maybe.

Web services: not yet. This is something I've been asking for and the Local Directgov team are looking at doing. […]

What is possible now is simple link redirection. This involves linking to a Directgov URL and passing it the code number of the service you want, the code number for the interaction type you want (normally 8 for “finding information”) and the code number of the local authority whose service you want to access. The service codes are a subset of the standard Local Government Service List (LGSL); interaction codes are from the Local Government Interaction List (LGIL).

Here's an example:

Find information (LGIL code 8) about the Youth Opportunies Fund (LGSL code 1116) at Bristol City Council (authority code 558):

Find information (8) about volunteering opportunities for young people (629) in Nottinghamshire (239):

Obviously this only works for services that are included in the Local Directgov service list, and for authorities in England and Wales. Local Directgov relies on the authority having provided a URL for the service in question. If a particular authority has failed to do so, the link defaults to the “Contact us” page of the authority's website.

This facility has a few obvious drawbacks:

  • The website user has to know which council area they're in.
  • You, the website owner, have to know what the code number is for that council.
  • It doesn't work well with services delivered by more than one tier of local authority (e.g. services provided by both county and district council in an area).

[…] LDG have their own numbering system for local authorities.

As it stands, then, the facility is quite usable for a council website where I only have to know the codes for a handful of authorities in my area – see for instance – but not much good for a national website.

The alternative, for now, is to recreate the input form at on your own website. So you prompt the user for their postcode, then use that to send them to Directgov with the postcode already set – for example, like this:

Is it possible to mash up data from

There is useful data in local direct gov – but can we get at it with a web service to create mash-ups for public benefit?

<warning – slightly geeky post coming up>

Last year we tried to raise awareness of the Youth Opportunity Fund and Youth Capital Fund with the Actions Speak Louder campaign. The campaign, targetted at young people – involved a national awards ceremony and publicity campaign – but the goal was to help young people find their local Youth Opportunity Fund grant making panel.

YOF/YCF serach on MySpace from Direct Gov?

The only place we could find a directory of Local Youth Opportunity fund websites was through, and it seems like you can only search on the Local Direct Gov orange website. However, we wanted to be able to pull a search of local Youth Opportunity Funds into a widget on the Actions Speak Louder mySpace website instead of pointing people off to Direct Gov.

Direct Gov Youth Funds

As far as I knew at the time, that couldn't be done. Local Direct Gov doesn't appear to provide an XML feed, or web service API. However, here at the BarCampUKGovWeb Paul Clarke who works with Direct Gov has suggested it might just be possible. He notes:

Hantsweb gave an interesting presentation at the last Directgov Open Day about how one local authority has used the Local Directgov functionality to enhance the way it routes interested citizen to relevant local services in its area (and close surroundings outside the county).

So I'm hopefuly. But with a bit more searching I'm little further forward.

So, I still have three questions:

1) Does anyone know if its possible to query the Local Direct Gov data as a webservice? Or do I have to always direct users off to the dreaded orange pages?

2) If it is – does anyone know how?

3) If it isn't – what would it take to make it possible?

Update: follow up post here