Headlines: January 21st, 2010

Local people will be able to use data from Total Place and the Audit Commission’s Oneplace website to find out how local public bodies are performing. The extension of local authority scrutiny to all public services in an area will complete the triangle of accountability.

Information about taxpayer’s money spent on services in an area, which is the first output from a Total Place initiative, will give local people insights into how efficiency is being tackled. They will then be able to relate this spending information to the performance data for their area at the new Oneplace website.

A Total Place initiative starts with the mapping of all expenditure in an area and moves on to a detailed look at what is spent on specific functions such as care for the elderly. Publishing the expenditure map will allow local people to compare the data with other areas of the country which have similar characteristics. The more detailed analysis will show, for example money spent by social services on the top 100 families that receive the most support and on the most prolific criminals in the area.

The Oneplace website presents an overall view of how public services are performing in each of the 152 areas of England covered by Local Area Agreements. The combined findings of auditors and inspectors paint a picture of how schools, councils, police, charities and local businesses work together and whether they are making a difference. The website offers a way of checking the effectiveness of public spending and helps people hold those who provide publicly funded services to account for their decisions. The next step will be to require local government to release local public data and establish an open-platform Local Data Exchange.

The Audit Commission described Total Place and Oneplace as two sides of a triangle, which will be completed by the planned extension of local scrutiny. The plan involves extending local authority scrutiny powers to all local public service spending in each area and this will also involve utility and transport companies.

Michael O’Higgins, Chairman of the Audit Commission said: “These three pillars of accountability are mutually reinforcing. Independent assessment plays a crucial part in accountability, and accountability comes from making information available to the public.”