Headlines: December 16th, 2013

New provisions have been published to strengthen the public’s ability to hold councils to account and the voluntary code for publishing council data is to become compulsory. There will also be consultation on widening the disclosure requirements to companies contracted to councils.

The government believes all data held and managed by local authorities should be made available to local people unless there are specific sensitivities such as protecting vulnerable people or commercial and operational considerations.

The legislation will also extend publication to a range of new areas including details of transactions on Government Procurement Cards. Publication of credit card data for DCLG resulted in a three quarter cut in spend.

Facility time of trade union officials will also have to be published. Publication in DCLG produced a saving of 400,000 a year.

Other areas where publication is required include money raised from parking charges, contract and tenders, property assets and grants given to voluntary and community organisations.

It is planned to extend transparency to all parts of the public sector. In the New Year, there will be consultation on broadening transparency to companies linked to councils and parishes.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “Councils need to make sensible savings to help freeze Council Tax and protect frontline services. This new wave of town hall transparency will empower armchair auditors to expose municipal waste – from surplus offices and corporate credit cards to trade union ‘pilgrims’, and help councillors drive down costs. Greater power for local government must go hand in hand with greater local transparency and local accountability.