Headlines: May 20th, 2008

Government ministers are facing calls to ‘open the books’ and to publish new information on public spending in local areas. The call comes from the Local Government Association in its response to consultations on the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. The LGA wants the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Hazel Blears, to publish public service spending details by the autumn.

The LGA says that under the Act she is required to publish statements giving details of public spending in any local area. The statements have to include information on all the public spending in area by local councils, central government, quangos, and other agencies.

The Act also has a provision to allow people to make suggestions on how public money could be better used in their communities and for a selection body to look at and shortlist the suggestions. The LGA has agreed to take on the role. Its chairman, Sir Simon Milton, said the Act could potentially allow people to make a real difference to the way money was spent.

But Sir Simon said the LGA’s response had raised its concern that the public spending statements might not be published by the Government until six months after proposals had been submitted. “This undermines the scope of local people to propose changes to how their money is spent locally. The LGA urges the government to bring forward these public spending statements, helping to give local people and councils more influence over how public money is spent,” he said.