Headlines: April 1st, 2010

Spending figures of public bodies in every area of the country are now available at the click of a mouse. The scale of data available is limited and it is three years old, but it is the start of what promises to be a powerful lever in the governance of the public sector.

The newly launched Local Spending Report website:
http://www.localspending.communities.gov.uk/ provides a picture of spending in any area of England simply by clicking on and scrolling over maps. At the touch of a button it will be clear to see how taxpayers money was spent locally and by which public bodies.

The new digital presentation transfers reams of inaccessible data previously locked in spreadsheets into web based formats that local people can readily interrogate and scrutinise. This includes information on funding for police, fire, health and local authorities.

Greater transparency will make it easier to look right across all the local services in an area and spot evidence of duplication or waste. It will help all councils to ‘health check’ whether public money going into the area is delivering value for money and delivering the very best services.

The changes will help ensure councils are well placed to develop a Total Place approach to services by taking a fundamental look at all the money going into the area and make the most of new freedoms and flexibilities the Government is delivering to improve services whilst generating savings.

Development of the website to increase its usefulness is being pursued by an independent Local Public Data Panel, led by Professor Nigel Shadbolt. It has already identified numerous data streams local authorities provide to central government as areas to focus on for further data release. The Panel has also started work with leading councils to make their data available.