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Sustainable Communities Act 2007

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

On 28 October I committed to reporting on the future development of Local Spending Reports. That report is being published today on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at: Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

Our aim is to deliver better public services which also offer increased value for money. In order to do that, we need to ensure that information about how public money is spent is clear, accessible and useful. This will make it easier for service providers, potential providers, and citizens themselves to look at how that money is being spent, identify evidence of duplication or waste, develop alternative solutions and hold service providers to account. More fundamentally, ensuring that citizens have the information they need about public organisations is essential to empower communities, make sure their voice is heard, and that they have control over the services they receive.

Local Spending Reports are an important part of the way in which we will increase the transparency, visibility and accountability of local public spending. They help ensure that local authorities, their partners, and citizens have easy access to the information they need about public spending in their area, all in one place. The first Local Spending Report was published in April 2009, when we committed to developing these reports further.

The report we are publishing today sets out how we plan to make Local Spending Reports more useful and informative, by increasing the range of information they cover; and more practical and accessible, by ensuring that Local Spending Reports can be viewed by anyone on the web in a broader context of quality, performance, efficiency and value for money. They will form part of the Local Data Exchange which Communities and Local Government is developing as a way for local authorities to better share information among each other and with their partners and citizens. It also sets out how we will ensure that Local Spending Reports offer value for money and are not overly costly or burdensome for local authorities and their partners.

Local Spending Reports are just one element of our ambitions to make sure that citizens are better informed about the services in their area and how they are performing. Since the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 became law, there have been other important developments which will complement and strengthen how they work— first, the Government’s wider work to make public data available to common standards on the internet, led by Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt; secondly, our proposals to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to scrutinise local public spending; and thirdly, the development of Total Place, where local authorities bring together all the partners responsible for public spending in an area, challenging how that money is being spent. Most recently, “Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government” set out a plan to drive up standards by strengthening the role of citizens and civic society, to free up public services by recasting the relationship between the centre and the frontline, and to streamline the centre of Government, saving money for sharper delivery. Local Spending Reports are one step towards these broader goals.

The next Local Spending Report will contain more up-to-date data, across a wider range of sources. In the new year, I will publish a consultation paper to discuss the issues with organisations who will be affected by the arrangements. We also want to make sure that the next Local Spending Report easily links across to the sources of the original data wherever possible, so that those interested in the detail of the report can quickly find out more. This will make Local Spending Reports more “alive”: easier to use and more valuable to the user. My intention is to publish the next Local Spending Report (after the consultation) in the summer 2010.