Town hall chiefs data publishing praised

St Helens Town Hall
St Helens Town Hall
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Council bosses in St Helens have pledged to maintain efforts to publish public spending data to show residents are getting value for money.

An investigation of more than 150 local authorities has found that some are missing deadlines on reporting spends of more than £500.

Requirements to publish such data are part of transparency measures announced by the Government in 2010, calling for councils to detail significant purchases.

But St Helens Council is among the most up-to-date local authorities in the country.

A spokesman said: “We’re committed to providing quality services to residents and businesses in the borough and, just as importantly, showing that the council is getting real value for money.

“As part of our commitment to providing financial transparency, and in line with Department of Communities and Local Government guidelines - we provide regularly updated information to our residents via our website.”

The current regulations require councils to publish the spending data no later than a month after the financial quarter within which the purchase occurred.

St Helens Council’s last batch of information included details of spending in November’s accounts, the investigation found.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said: “Greater power for local government must go hand in hand with greater local transparency and accountability, and local taxpayers have a right to see where their council’s cash is going.

“We expect all local authorities to publish spending information without exception.”

- it is unacceptable for councils to hide this data from local people.”

Of the more than 150 local authority websites examined, 67 had included figures up to and including November’s accounts.

Another 50 had updated to October and 17 to September.

The results show that one in 10 councils was at least four months behind the deadlines set out in the regulations.

Mr Lewis added: “That’s why we are now making our transparency code compulsory for all councils, meaning that they must publish their spending information over £500 every quarter.

“This new wave of town hall transparency will give armchair auditors the power to expose municipal waste - from surplus offices and corporate credit cards to trade union pilgrims, and help councillors drive down costs.”