UK Government

Communities and Local Government: Denham: Making public spending more accountable

Press Release   •   Jan 05, 2010 11:26 GMT

Billions of pounds of public money will be subject to increased scrutiny by citizens and councils, Communities Secretary John Denham has announced.

Local Spending Reports provide information about how public money is being spent in local areas including money going to police and fire services, transport and health.

This is all crucial information enabling people to see how their taxes are being put to use. At the moment if people want to see not only what is being spent but what that money is delivering they would need to trawl through an array of different data, reports and statistics.

John Denham is clear that improving the quantity and quality of data in the public domain will not only increase transparency but will also be key to improving efficiency and securing better value for money.

Changes are therefore being proposed to improve the way that local spending reports are produced and presented. At the moment they exist as a series of Excel spreadsheets. From next summer they will be published online in a clear and user friendly format that will enable the data to be easily interrogated.

In future the reports will include:

• more up to date information
• greater detail on spending by quangos including Learning and Skills Councils, the 
Homes and Communities Agency more comprehensive details of grant payments from
central to local government
• enhanced regional data
• web links taking users direct to relevant sources of additional information including the new Oneplace website which features detail of all comprehensive area assessments

Greater transparency will make it easier to look right across all the local services in an area and spot evidence of duplication or waste. It will help all local authorities to ‘health check’ whether public money going into the area is delivering value for money and delivering the very best services. It could also drive innovation and fresh thinking
by providing entrepreneurs, businesses, customers, professionals and suppliers with the data they need to identify business opportunities or problems and come up with solutions.

It will help more councils to follow the lead of the 13 local authorities currently involved in Total Place pilots. Total Place has the potential to not only improve services but lead to multi-million pound savings.  The authorities involved are taking a fundamental look at all the money going into the area, where it is being spent, what it is delivering and how it
could be spent differently.

However, the authorities involved have fed back that the process of collecting data on public spending has been time consuming and expensive. This time and cost could be massively reduced if a system was in place to make it easier for all areas of the country to apply the same analysis to their own spend and delivery. As set out in Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government, Government is committed to providing a broad range of national and local information to citizens in an accessible format.  Local Spending Reports will play a crucial role here as part of central Government’s offer to the information set available on local services and local places.

John Denham said:

“Providing expenditure alone risks knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.  Taxpayers have a right to know how their hard earned money is being spent. But citizens and  councils alike should also be able to easily access the information they need to scrutinise and challenge what that money is delivering.

“The changes we are making will make doing that much easier and is part of a wider transformation  in the way that public services are delivered -  making them more people centred and shifting  power to the user.

“Better, smarter data is crucial to driving down costs and increasing innovation. It will open  the door to enterprise and innovation by encouraging individuals, business and third sector to  come up with new solutions to old problems.

“Information really is power in this respect and local spending reports are a key part of the Government’s wider actions to transform public services in line with people’s expectations.”

Because the data held by local authorities is every bit as valuable as data held nationally, the Communities Secretary has asked Professor Shadbolt to head up a panel of experts to oversee the release of local data. Over the coming weeks and months, the panel will look at how council information ranging from recycling data, street works, planning applications and parking fines can be made available to residents. This, together with the changes being made to Local Spending Reports will radically improve the quality of information in the public domain.

Notes to editors

1. CLG is committed to ensuring Local Spending Reports are practical, useful and cost-effective.

2. The data from the first Local Spending Report will be loaded into CLG’s award-winning Places Database in a clear and user friendly format. Places Database already holds data for over 600 indicators at a number of spatial levels. By March 2010 an improved mapping facility will allow users to look at spending in an area by clicking on and scrolling over high quality maps. Some mock-up screens of how this might be presented to citizens are available at the link below:
http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/1423272.pdf

3. Places Database can be found at: http://www.places.communities.gov.uk/

Future Local Spending Reports will also be published in this way as data becomes available and we will be looking
to improve the site from feedback received from the consultation exercise and the release in March. We will also
work closely with the Audit Commission to ensure that Places Database and the Oneplace site are complementary in
their offerings.

4. A new report details the changes we intend to make to local spending reports and that can be viewed at:
http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/localpublicexpenditure

Contacts

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk