Pickles champions open government with new wave of Town Hall transparency

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Pickles champions open government with new wave of Town Hall transparency

New provisions have been announced to strengthen the public’s ability to hold local councils to account as part of a drive to help cut council waste and increase local accountability.

The transparency code for councils was previously voluntary but will now be made a legal requirement so that it becomes mandatory for all councils with a gross income or expenditure above £6.5 million

In addition to the existing requirements, the statutory code will now also require councils to publish:

·         Spending on corporate credit cards;

·         Greater openness on the money raised from parking charges, allowing residents to compare with neighbouring councils;

·         Subsidies given to trade unions, including so-called union ‘facility time’;

·         Information on councils’ contract and tenders, to make it easier for small and medium firms to bid for work and introduce more competition to lower costs;

·         Local authorities’ property assets, to help drive better efficiency of the £220 billion town hall estate; and

·         Grants given to voluntary and community groups, to show how councils are backing the Big Society.

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, 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.

“My own department has cut its corporate credit card spend by three-quarters since we placed it all online and has saved £400,000 a year from cutting pilgrim time. This openness will help drive council savings both big and small – and they all add up.”

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