Looking at the itemised spending of the Ministry of Justice we see vast sums spent that we could probably get by without. Vast sums (£41 million here, £28 million there, another £18 million splodge in June alone) to the Legal Services Commission for Legal Aid which remains staggeringly more extravagant than in other countries. Then there are all the training programmes, office rent, franking machines, computers systems, the "grant payments for pro bono services"(?). Council of Europe is £138,000. On it all goes.
The Ministry of Justice only publishes spending items over £25,000. Vast swathes of extravagance are under the radar, escaping scrutiny.
Well done to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for publishing spending items over £500. Ditto to the Department of International Development and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. The Department of Energy and Climate Change are also exposed in this way.
The Department for Communities and Local Government now publishes all spending over £250. A sense of the discipline that transparency has brought in was given by this item in the Sunday Express' Crossbencher diary column recently. The Special Advisers at the DCLG, Giles Kenningham and Sheridan Westlake, turned down the offer of new business cards. That is the sort of thing where previously there would have been no incentive to hesitate about spending more money.
It is welcome that councils face demands for a lower threshold for publishing their spending. Also for them to ensure the information is intelligible, is prominently on their websites, and is kept up to date. But all central Government departments should be expected to apply the same standard.