As the Coalition Government passes the 100 days in office mark, it is clear that achieving greater transparency across all aspects of government (including local government) is amongst their top priorities. In a recent letter to the Cabinet, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of “enabling the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account [in order to] reduce the deficit and deliver better value for money in public spending”.
The details of how local governments are to achieve this transparency are as yet not set in stone, but guidance on public procurement transparency for local government is expected soon. However, going back to the Prime Minister’s letter, he does discuss some of the types of policies which will be implemented in the near future to achieve the desired transparency. From January 2011 it is proposed that items of spending over £500, and also contract/tender document for a value of over £500, be published so the public can see exactly where and how their money is being spent.
Further to making information available to the public on how their money is being spent, there appears to be a drive to make certain types of data held by government available to the public to view. At the moment this has only been discussed in relation to central government, but local governments should brace themselves. Types of data central government is being compelled to publish include the pay structures of their most senior staff, and organograms of how they as an entire organisation are structured.
The Prime Minister categorically states in his letter that this is “just the beginning of the transparency process”, as he encourages a shift in policy to “a presumption in favour of transparency”. The timescale and exact details of what transparency requirements will be imposed on local authorities is as yet unclear, but expect something sooner rather than later.