Councils told to open up spending to public

Eric Pickles MP
Eric Pickles MP
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A CABINET minister has put two South Yorkshire councils on “a week’s notice” to open up their spending to public scrutiny.

Barnsley and Doncaster Councils are among 11 local authorities in Yorkshire that have so far failed to publish details of all spending over £500 on their websites.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said he wants all councils to be publishing such information by the end of this month.

Rotherham began publishing its spending in December, while Sheffield started last week.

More than 210 councils across the country have put some information online but 150 are still to act.

Mr Pickles said: “Transparency can help save money in tough times protecting frontline services, by cutting waste and unnecessary costs. The final countdown for councils has begun. In the last six months, more than half of all councils have got their house in order. Today, I’m putting those councils still to open up on one week’s notice.

“The public have a right to know how their taxes are spent, and those yet to deliver are running out of excuses and time before they have to face their electorate – I hope every council chooses to do so openly, transparently and democratically.”

Councils are expected to publish details of senior pay, councillor expenses, tenders and contracts so that ‘armchair auditors’ can clearly see the decisions being made on their behalf.

Mr Pickles’ department has published a ‘timeline’ on its website showing which councils are leaving it to the eleventh hour before they publish their spending.

The publication of Sheffield Council’s spending shows the local authority has been spending £10,000 per year on water coolers and £2,000 a year on “ladder maintenance”.

The local authority last year signed a £600,000 contract for the production and distribution of the ‘Your Sheffield’ magazine, which is printed four times a year to 235,000 households. The contract will run from July 2010 to July 2013.