Monday, 31 May 2010

All Council Spending Over £500 Online By 2011

The BBC reports today on a development that has the potential to dramatically increase transparency within central and local government.

From November, information on central government spending over £500 will be made available to the public, with details of major government contracts published from September. Civil servants earning more than £150,000 will be named and their salaries disclosed.

Considering the problems I am having trying to persuade Newham council to release information on its 'Preventing Violent Extremism' expenditure last year, the really interesting news is confirmation of an earlier pledge that from January 2011, all local government spending over £500 will be available online.

I can already imagine the panic within Newham Council's inner circles. However, implementation of this new policy is still six months away, so meanwhile anyone interested in seeing how their local authority spends our money is reliant on the Freedom of Information Act.

To that end, I have set up a separate FoIA page on this blog, which I will add to gradually over the coming weeks - and I've put this simple presentation of how to pry information out of those public bodies who currently hold on to it.

1 Comment:

Theunis Viljoen said...

Although some Councils have already started to publish details of payments to suppliers over £500, there is obviously a reticense to develop costly reporting solutions. Councils therefore appear to publish the information in downloadable format either as Excel spreadsheets or PDF documents. Although this may 'tick' the required disclosure requirements, we do not believe that this provides real value to the public.

Information such as this only has real value if it can be viewed in context (i.e. is a payment normal or abnormal?). For a user to be able to make this interpretation, they may need to be able to look at spend in a month for a particular expense category against similar spend in previous periods or against other categories.

BIOLAP has developed an application, that we wish to provide to Councils free of charge to allow members of the public to analyse expenditure, slice and dice information and drill through to the underlying transactions.

Try it at

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