Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has written to councils calling on them to publish all spending over £500 and also a range of data including:
Information on senior salaries, names and job descriptions
Councillor allowances and expenses; minutes and papers of council meetings
Job vacancies that will enable people to see why council wage bills are so high and how many of the positions are for key local services
Frontline service data – including rubbish and recycling rates, council tax collection rates and detail of major planned projects
Data such as food hygiene reports for food outlets – information which is routinely collected and of interest to residents, but not currently shared in an easily accessible format.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says:
"Getting council business out in the open will revolutionise local government. Local people should be able to hold politicians and public bodies to account over how their hard earned cash is being spent and decisions made on their behalf. They can only do that effectively if they have the information they need at their fingertips.
"The public should be able to see where their money goes and what it delivers. The swift and simple changes we are calling for today will unleash an army of armchair auditors and quite rightly make those charged with doling out the pennies stop and think twice about whether they are getting value for money.
"Throwing open the council books will open the door to new businesses and encourage greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Organisations that might have been effectively locked out before, including voluntary sector and small business, will be in a much stronger position to pitch for contracts and bring new ideas and solutions to the table."
Baroness Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association says:
"Local government is absolutely committed to the highest standards of transparency. Councils have been leading the way in giving taxpayers real, detailed and vital information about how their money is spent. All public bodies must be scrutinised for the spending decisions they make, and the LGA will work with councils to pioneer an approach of openness and accountability."
It sounds as though there is an attempt to achieve this without legislation. It will be an "expectation." Some argue that forcing local councils to disclose this data is a breach of localism. But localism also means devolving power from the Town Hall to the individual citizen. If legislation is unnecessary that is another matter.
This is an importat agenda and in many Town Halls there is an effort under way to jump before we are pushed. So when are the LGA and the DCLG going to open up the books on their own spending? Lead from the front.