Rick Seymour

£500 Council spending data decreases transparency

Since January 2011 local government expenditure over £500 has been released on a  monthly basis. Nottingham City Council is currently the only council choosing not to comply with this “guidance”.

My argument is that whilst transparency from local councils is a good thing, I believe that £500 spending data hides a huge proportion of the spending undertaken by councils.

Under the Audit Commission Act a local elector can request any financial data under the “Public Right of Inspection“, this only occurs for one month per year. I requested a complete spending data list, including those invoices under £500.

Lancaster City Council between April 2010 to March 2011 spent:-

£30m with over 29000 transactions.

If the council had only released information over £500:-

£2.47m or 24000 items would not have been included.

Which represents 8.2% of the total spend but 83% of the total invoices.

In addition 867 items between £400-£500 = £385,000

So is setting a £500 “cap” on spending data the right thing to do?

Why do councils not have a search engine to search through invoices?

If Mr Pickles and Department for Communities and Local Government want transparency maybe we should think about what and how councils release their data.

Spending analysis

Lancaster City Council Spending Data search engine
(Created by me)

 

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