The Department for Communities and Local Government has opened up its books by publishing payments to suppliers over £500.Well done, Eric. I hope the Prime Minister will insist other Government Departments follow suit. If the DCLG can do it, why not the rest? Of course there was a special reason for the DCLG to proceed. Spending transparency hurts. "I’m glad we’ve been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face," said the Queen Mother during the war. That is the spirit the Communities Secretary is following. It is the DCLG that is applying this rule to Town Halls. But there is still an overwhelming case for a Government serious about value for money and accountability to spread it across Whitehall.
Come on Theresa. Come on William. Come on Liam. Come on Owen. Come on Michael G. Come on Jeremy. Come on Phil. Come on Iain, Andrew L, Andrew M, Cheryl and George. Come on Vince, Michael M, Chris and Nick for that matter.
The DCLG have also backdated the data release by a year – which was good politics but which must have caused some DCLG officials to wince.
So we learn the £314 million with of payments included £635,000 on taxis and cars, £310,000 on catering and food, £16m on marketing, advertising, promotion and events. We learn that the government offices for the regions spent more than £100,000 on market research and polling last year - also spent more than £1,600 on massages for staff and £539 on an away-day trip to Blackpool pleasure beach.
Local Government minister Bob Neill says:
“It seems quite literally the government offices were taking the taxpayer for a ride. They were living it up at the taxpayer’s expense whilst thousands of households were struggling to make ends meet."
Here are the following 26 councils listed by the DCLG as already publishing spending on payments to suppliers. Trafford should be added – although the link to Leicestershire doesn't seem to work and the one to Slough doesn't seem to have the information. It should be acknowledged that not all of these are Conservative councils. Bedford and the Vale of the White Horse are Lib Dem, Corby, Oxford, Slough, Hastings, Islington are Labour. I hope that Conservatives in those areas will congratulate the councils for their transarency – while also making use of the information to hold them to account.