The Conservatives are now in opposition on Harrow Council. But they are making their presence felt. They have called for spending transparency. Labour have rejected the demand. Of course they won the vote but they lost the argument. As a result of their obstruction the residents of Harrow will have to wait a few months longer before they can discover what their money is being spent on.
They will have to come clean eventually. But instead of embracing the challenge of being open with Council Taxpayers, the Labour-run Council will have to be dragged kicking and screaming. Their fingers will have to be prised off before the books can be opened. It is not exactly a sign of self confidence, is it? What does Gareth Thomas, the Labour MP for Harrow West, make of the Council's idea that his constituents should be kept in the dark?
The trouble is that Labour MPs believe in the power of the state over the individual – especially when it comes to money. So they can't bring themselves to embrace transparency – and especially not spending transparency. A piece of friendly advice to the Labour leadership contenders. There would be kudos to the first of them to say: "I support the Conservatives proposals on spending transparency. It is right that politicians should be accountable for what they spend money on. I accept that it was a mistake not to brought in such reforms."
Here is a motion proposed at the last Council meeting.
Council Transparency Motion
To be moved by Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane and seconded by Councillor Susan Hall:
“This Council welcomes the proposals recently put forward by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), as part of its efforts to improve local government transparency and accountability.
This Council therefore commits itself to complying with the DCLG recommendations, and by 1st January 2011 at the latest will publish and continue publishing online:
1. Details in full of total cumulative spending over £500.
2. Information on all staff earning over £50,000 per annum (including details of salaries, benefits, and expenses) and their job descriptions.
3. Councillor allowances and expenses (in a real-time rather than annual format).
4. Frontline service data, including rubbish and recycling rates, as well as council tax collection rates.
5. Automatic energy reading to measure energy consumption and enable residents to monitor the council’s drive towards lower emissions and energy use.
6. Full answers to Questions with Notice at Council meetings (to be published in the Council minutes).
None of the above shall include information that:
a) Relates to a commercial arrangement in negotiation.
b) Is not publishable under the data protection act.
c) Relates to the protection of vulnerable adults and children.
This Council also pledges that this information will be published at zero cost to taxpayers, with its collation and presentation forming part of other processes the Council already carries out.
With some of this information already available, this Council further pledges to make itself even more transparent by requiring that the various strands of information be collected and brought together on the main council website – with a link from the frontpage – under the heading, “www.harrow.gov.uk /transparency” to make it easy for residents to find.
This Council believes that enacting these proposals will encourage financial responsibility, improve accountability, and be of substantial benefit to Harrow residents.”
Equivalent versions of this motion deserve to be tabled elsewhere. I don't think Cllr Macleod-Cullinane will make any complaints about breach of copyright.