A brief overview of COINS
On June 4th, 2010 HM Government released Combined Online Information System (COINS) database, the main database used by HM Treasury budgeting. This is a significant milestone in the opening up of UK government data. The data is available here
This post gives a brief overview of that data, and links to sources that help understand that data. I’ve also done a blog post about a little programming project I did to recreate the government Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses(PESA) reports from the COINS data, see: Using the COINS data to recreate PESA reports
Overview of COINS data
The structure of the COINS data is explained in HM Treasury – Understanding the COINS data
Initially the government released four files in zip format. These unzipped to give:
A Very brief summary of the file structure
The released files contain the COINS data in unicode format, with fields separated by @ and one record on each line. All amounts are in thousands of pounds.
The Treasury maintains data for recorded spending (outturn), forecast spending (estimated outturn for the latest year) and planned spending (up to three years ahead). The COINS data also includes snapshots of the spending data. The Data_type field has values that reflect this, including “Outturn”, “Forecast Outturn ” (eg “Forecast Outturn March”), “Plans” and “Snapshot”.
A clear distinction is made between current and capital spending, based on Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP). The Resource_Capital field has a value of “Resource” or “Capital” to reflect this.
Departments are given firm three year spending limits called Departmental Expenditure Limits(DELs) within which they prioritise resources and plan ahead. Spending that cannot reasonably be subject to firm multi-year limits, or that relates to certain non-cash transactions, is included in Annually Managed Expenditure(AME). DEL and AME together make up Total Managed Expenditure(TME). The Budget_Boundary field has a value of DEL, AME or Not DEL/AME to reflect this.
Spending is by department. The Department_code field reflects this.
- Where Does My Money Go?
- Where Does My Money Go? – A User Guide to COINS
- Open Knowledge Foundation Blog – The Hunt For COINS
- Open Knowledge Foundation Blog – COINS: A Users Guide
- What Do They Know COINS database schema
- EtherPad – Coins open notepad
- Google spreadsheet of COINS Schema overview:
- Open Knowledge Foundation(okfn) coins python scripts
HM Treasury publish documents that may help to understand COINS and, and how that data may be used and aggregated. These include:
- Public spending planning and control – a brief introduction
- Consolidated Budgeting Guidance
- Classification papers
- Information on the Supply Estimates process at: Financial reporting – Parliamentary Supply Estimates
HM Treasury publishes a number of documents based COINS data. Public Spending Statistics are available here: Statistics on Public Finance and Spending.