I mentioned this morning Labour's opposition to spending transparency. However the Guardian have been cheering the process along. Yesterday they had a piece making the point that just publshing a list of payments to companies was not enough. It needs to say what the payments are for.  Also the technically minded need to be able to slice and dice, mesh and mash the data. They complained that own council, Hammersmith and Fulham, has so far only published a pdf.

Fair point but mark the sequel. Here is the breaking news reported in the Telegraph that not merely are resolving the matter raised in The Guardian but going much further with the determination to be the most transparent council in Britain. Crucially we will be transparent aboout ALL spending not just procurement. Payments to suppliers only accounts for a minority of Town Hall spending. Full credit to Spikes Cavell who are delivering this for us. They are doing an outstanding job making transparency a reality in Town Hall across Britain.

Here are the full details:

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has made public its aim of becoming Britain’s most transparent local council The Council will not only make its external payments transparent to the public in accordance with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ express wishes, but intends to go further than any other local authority by providing visibility of its payments the voluntary sector, members’ allowances and expenses, the Council’s list of assets register, including all buildings and land owned by the Council, and most importantly, it’s total spend as reported in its finance system.

The Council’s transparency is made possible through the deployment of Spikes Cavell’s spotlightonspend – an innovative online platform, designed to radically improve the accessibility, relevance and value of Government spend and related information to the general public and open data community. Spikes Cavell has undertaken to adapt the spotlightonspend platform to facilitate access to the Council’s wider transparency agenda, which will enable access by the general public and open data community to these new classes of data.

“We don’t want to simply grudgingly comply with the Government requirements on external payments as just a box ticking exercise,” said Harry Phibbs, Cabinet Minister for Community Engagement at Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “The vast majority of spending any council undertakes is not payments to suppliers, but rather its ongoing running costs and operational investments. Information not only needs to be transparent and accessible, but also intelligible to the general public so that it is meaningful and easily understood. It’s useless to simply have raw data. It needs to be presented in a format people can follow. We saw tremendous scope to work closely with Spikes Cavell and its spotlightonspend platform to take transparency much further, and we’re very pleased to be entering this collaboration.”

Hammersmith & Fulham is already the country's most efficient council, and was named as the best council in Britain earlier this year, reducing council tax by 3% for the fourth consecutive year, while its services have been recognised by the Audit Commission as being amongst the best in the country.

The Council has also seen the largest increase in council satisfaction and value for money scores in the country. As one of the country’s leading councils, Hammersmith & Fulham is now collaborating with Spikes Cavell to extend its innovative spotlightonspend platform to push the boundaries on what transparency means.

“We want to be as open and accountable as we can on all aspects of our costs, assets and areas of spending,” said Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “We believe our collaboration with Spikes Cavell contributes to better government by ensuring we are completely open in our efficiency efforts and delivering value for money in public spending. The spotlightonspend platform is a crucial part of that process and will help ensure our data is open, accessible and intelligible for the general public.”

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said, "Hammersmith and Fulham are leading the way in letting the sunlight of openness into local government. They are showing that transparency not only increases democratic accountability, but also helps councils save money and cut waste. By publishing data in an open and standardised format, we can help transform our public services through levering in the innovation of the voluntary and commercial sector and the wider internet community."

Luke Spikes, CEO of Spikes Cavell & Co, which operates the spotlightonspend service, added, “With the pressure on local authorities to deliver more for less during the age of austerity, Hammersmith & Fulham Council are a great example of how the public sector can use private sector innovation and initiative to help prompt further savings both internally and externally. We’re delighted to be working with such a forward looking local authority to help push the boundaries of local government openness.

"We will be adapting the online platform along with the data management processes and supporting infrastructure in support of Hammersmith & Fulham’s ambition to become Britain’s most transparent council. In the meantime, we’re expecting to go live with Hammersmith & Fulham’s spend with third party suppliers, along with a machine readable download file of the raw data for payments in excess of £500 at the end of October with the new classes of data made accessible over the coming months.”

Spotlightonspend cuts costs, eliminates complexity and reduces risk

Spotlightonspend is a managed service that is comprised of everything necessary to cost-effectively facilitate publication of the spend and related information public bodies elect to make available to the general public.

Spotlightonspend is designed to:

  • enhance the information a public body publishes to improve its accessibility, relevance and value for the intended audience – the general public and open data community.
  • eliminate the complexity of becoming and staying compliant with policy,
  • reduce the risk of inadvertent breach of the Data Protection Legislation ,
  • cut costs by removing the need to add to the workload of a public body’s current staff or increase headcount.

 Spotlightonspend is powered by Spikes Cavell. Spikes Cavell equips decision makers in the public sector with the data, online tools and analytical insight they need in order to transform the way they procure goods and services. Since 2003, their spend analysis and spend management solutions have underpinned the efforts of more than 800 organisation’s to deliver cash savings, measure progress and manage compliance.

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