Monday, November 29, 2010

Transparency in local government

I still feel it is only the County Council that is some way in getting the policy of transparency over with the publishing of the over £500 payments. But there is a long way to go. Where the Department of Communities and Local Government leads the rest will have to follow.

Hampshire County Council wanted to charge for Freedom of Information requests because they cost too much. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State at DCLG said to this request:

"If town halls want to reduce the amount they spend on responding to freedom of information requests they should consider making the information freely available in the first place.

"The simple act of throwing open the books, rather than waiting for them to be prised apart by the force of an FoI, might even save a few pounds in the process.

"Ninety councils have already published details of day-to-day spending over £500 online. Those councils recognise that not only does the public have a legitimate right to see information about what their council spends and the decisions it makes, but that openness and transparency is absolutely critical to root out waste and inefficiency.

"Greater local accountability is essential to accompany the greater powers and freedoms that the new Government is giving to local government."

Too often the Councils hide behind secret meeting and "commercial" interest. The DCLG is leading the way over contracts. The DCLG goes onto say:

"Suppliers and those organisations looking to bid for public sector contracts should be aware that if they are awarded a new Government contract, the resulting contract between the supplier and Government will be published."

Insert Council instead of Government into the above statement and this is what all Councils should be doing, now.

Eric Pickles is a former Leader of Bradford Council. He knows a thing or two about local government. This is why with one hand he is trying to give local government more powers and responsibilities and with the other give genuine public accountability through the democratic process to the people who pay for these services. Local Government is part of the top down approach to local government that has been instilled since the beginning. Local Government know best. If this level of government wants more powers it has to be open with the public. It is Council Taxpayers money they are spending. We should have the right to know how and why it is being spent!

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