TOWN HALL transparency to expose car parking CHARGES
Government action to enshrine Town Hall transparency as an everyday activity will now also open up punitive parking charges to public scrutiny, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.
The Government is asking for views on plans to make it a legal requirement for councils to open up every aspect of its business through the regular publication of a transparency inventory that will reveal data on pay, perks, spending, charities and now parking. Overall council parking income totalled £1.27billion in 2010-11.
Proposed amendments to The Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency will also introduce new transparency standards on parking charges.
Councils will have to publish, as soon as it is produced, the number of off-street parking places and the revenue raised from them; the number of on-street parking places and the revenue they raise; as well as the revenue from parking fines and the number of free parking spaces available in line with the Portas Review of the High Street recommendations.
A recent survey found that almost seven in ten people intentionally avoided shopping areas with high parking prices. Two thirds said they would return to the high street if parking was more affordable. One in five felt there were not enough spaces available. It also found that four out of five people pay up to £150 per month for parking.
Eric Pickles said:
“We are ending an era of bureaucratic accountability and replacing it with a more open era of democratic accountability. It is right that taxpayers get to see how Town Halls spend their hard earned taxes so they can properly hold local politicians to account.
“Finally all councils have taken up the £500 transparency challenge but publication is only happening in fits and starts. By writing Town Hall transparency into law we can make certain every citizen gets open and equal access to information about local public expenditure.
“As part of that we will expose a great council cash cow cover-up unmasking punitive parking practices that hit residents in the pocket. We’re calling time on local war against motorists – now, more than ever, we need to see the back of this shopping tax and encourage more people onto the high street.”
The proposals mean that all local authorities would be required to openly publish their spending over £500 online including, tenders, contracts, senior pay, councillor expenses, voluntary sector funding, meetings, and frontline service data so that ‘armchair auditors’ can clearly see the decisions being made on their behalf.
This department has been publishing details of all goods and services spent over £500 matching the level required of councils since August 2010. As one of Government’s transparency trailblazers that is now being extended to include all transactions above a new low threshold of £250. ‘Can do’ councils have been challenged to match that threshold.
As a minimum the code states that the public data that should be released in every council’s transparency inventory is
- expenditure over £500, (including costs, supplier and transaction information). Any sole trader or body acting in a business capacity in receipt of payments of at least £500 of public money should expect such payments to be transparent;
- senior employee salaries, names (with the option for individuals to refuse to consent for their name to be published), job descriptions, responsibilities, budgets and numbers of staff. “Senior employee salaries” is defined as all salaries which are above £58,200 and above (irrespective of post), which is the Senior Civil Service minimum pay band. Budgets should include the overall salary cost of staff reporting to each senior employee;
- an organisational chart of the staff structure of the local authority including salary bands and details of currently vacant posts;
- the ‘pay multiple’ – the ratio between the highest paid salary and the median average salary of the whole of the authority’s workforce;
- councillor allowances and expenses;
- copies of contracts and tenders to businesses and to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector;
- grants to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector should be clearly itemised and listed;
- policies, performance, external audits and key inspections and key indicators on the authorities’ fiscal and financial position;
- the location of public land and building assets and key attribute information that is normally recorded on asset registers; and
- data on democratic running of the local authority including the constitution, election results, committee minutes, decision – making processes and records of decisions.
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