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Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is encouraging residents to check the amount their local councillors are being paid in allowances.

Eric says:

"The public have every right to know  how their taxes are being spent and high levels of scrutiny  on councillor expenses can only be a good thing.

"Financial disclosure has been and continues to be, a powerful trigger in enabling  the public to see how councils are using public money, shining a spotlight on waste and establishing greater accountability and efficiency.

"Opening the books to the public should ensure we never return to the bad old days of secrecy that were so prevalent under Labour."

To encourage the process the Department of Communities and Local Government have launched a search facility on their website. This enables you to type in your postcode and then be directed to your local council's website. But what would be more useful would be league tables. Which county council pays the highest councillor's allowances? Which district council does? Which city? Is your council near the top or the bottom or the middle? At the moment we don't know. Although for London boroughs it has been published.

The DCLG is also publicising in its open data section the citizens right to inspect town hall ledgers.

It says:

Every year councils are required to open their accounting records for public inspection and challenge over a set time period. These citizens' rights include checking not just the accounts but also 'all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts related to them'. These rights allow the public to check any spending under the £500 online transparency threshold, and avoid the need to submit Freedom of Information Act requests.

Revised rules controlling local authority accounting and audit practice have been introduced reinforcing the importance of local transparency, audit openness and accountability. These inspection rights last for 20 working days, but the period differs for each local authority, resulting in a low take-up to date. So in addition to the existing requirement to notify the public of their rights through the local press, councils must now also highlight the opportunity on their website.

Details of when local authorities are opening up their accounting records can be found from the Directgov Finding out how your local council spend your money page.

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