I have written before about the mutual admiration society I have formed with Cllr Steven Bridgett, an independent Lib Dem councillor on Northumberland County Council. The BBC reports that Cllr Bridgett has been getting his teeth into his council's spending data – which has been brought into the open under transparency rules.
As it is raw data, Cllr Bridgett has had to get out his pocket calculator to add up the totals in various categories:
The BBC says:
There are some interesting facts – £13,000 spent on leased cars, £16,000 on mobile phone bills.
Sounds a lot, but then they are the kind of items you would expect a council of Northumberland's size to spend money on.
He was more concerned though by the figure he found under the heading of Professional, Consultancy and Other Agencies.
That amounted to £1.5m in just one month.
From that you can remove £1m the council spent on managing its housing stock and on the Connexions careers service, as they are effectively services.
But Cllr Bridgett says that still leaves around £500,000 of what he calls "sickening waste".
Porperly transparent councils use the Spotlight on Spend facility to show the totals by intelligible categories.
I haven't totted them up with my pocket calculator but I hope Cllr Bridgett will have a look at agency staff spending for his council. Also taxis – which it looks as though run into hundreds of thousands for December alone and probably millions a year. The Council will respond that most of the spending on taxis to to take foster children to school, so doesn't that make it all right? No it doesn't. The children are much better off being picked up by their foster carers (even if you have to pay the foster carers a bit more.) With taxis there is also the cost of an escort as well as the taxi hire.