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Transparency (Local Government Spending)

Volume 530: debated on Monday 20 June 2011

17. What steps he is taking to improve the transparency of spending in local government; and if he will make a statement. (60290)

All local authorities in England now publish details of their £500 spend online and our Department routinely publishes a wide range of statistics on local authority spend. I say all local authorities but there is one exception to that rule—Labour Nottingham.

Ministers have already referred to the sound stewardship of Wandsworth council, which not only publishes everything over £500 spending wise but publishes the salary and expenses of all its staff who earn over £58,200. Will the Minister urge all public bodies to follow that lead?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about this. It is incredibly important that public bodies follow that lead. Transparency is at the very heart of allowing citizens to take part in local democracy and hold public bodies to account, and I cannot imagine for one moment why any public body would want to hold out against that. It is extraordinary that some do and even more extraordinary that one of them is a major city authority such as Nottingham.

Will the Minister be fully transparent about how much the people of Birmingham will have to pay for the establishment of the imposed office of a shadow executive mayor and what they will have to pay in reconversion costs if they happen to reject that back-to-front proposal when he finally consults them in a referendum?

I think we might be finally making progress. The good news for the hon. Gentleman is that when that kind of transparency is combined, everyone can hold local authorities to account—that is the whole point. When people try to cover things up and when huge amounts of expenditure go completely unchecked by armchair auditors, that cannot happen, but this way it can and will.