One of the benefits of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson belief in transparency is that it must often make Freedom of Information requests to City Hall unnecessary. You will often find out whatever it is you want to know by carrying out a search on the London Datastore website which includes a wealth of material.
But it is still right that as part of the transparency agenda the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has decided that the Local Government Association should be subjected to the Freedom of Information Act. After all the LGA is financed with public funds.
However the LGA don't sound too enthusiastic about transparency. Their chief executive John Ransford tells the Local Government Chronicle that there are “technical and procedural issues” he adds there are “quite a few difficulties but we want to have this discussion with Eric Pickles, not through the press." They are also resistant to the more important measure of having to publish all spending over £500. The defence that they are a membership body just doesn't wash – it is our money they are spending.
Furthermore the "LGA Family" gets £45 million from central Government ("top sliced Revenue Support Grant funding"). Savings are being made of 30% by greater efficiency of giving it all to one body without ring fencing rather than eight different bodies. This would be the prize for the LGA but they must expect to be accountable in return. The eight bodies existing at present are the Improvement and Development Agency, (IDEA), the Employers’ Organisation for Local Government, the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, (LACORS), the Public Private Partnerships Programme (4Ps), the Local Government International Bureau the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the National Youth Agency.
Spending transparency will prove prompt further savings as to whether whatever the groups do should be carried at all. Do we really need the functions of the Local Government International Bureau carried out at all, however efficiently, by anyone?