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Government ticks off spending data laggards



Local authorities have been 'named-and shamed' by the government for failing to lift the veil on the way they spend taxpayers' money.

A total of 17 councils were found to be lagging at least three months' behind before publishing data on everyday services and big ticket purchases.

One authority - Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council - is still refusing to release any information on its website, ministers said.

The survey, of 152 councils, comes just weeks before the government's 'transparency code' becomes compulsory for all town halls.

Brandon Lewis, the local government minister said: "Greater power for local government must go hand in hand with greater local transparency and accountability. We expect all local authorities to publish spending information without exception - it is unacceptable for councils to hide this data from local people."

The survey, carried out on 2 January this year, found that 67 of the 152 authorities had published figures up to and including November's accounts. An additional 50 councils had updated their websites as far as October's purchases and a further 17 to September.

But that left 17 authorities - excluding Wigan - which were lagging further behind. They were:

Up to August: Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, Hackney, Havering, Medway, Salford City, South Tyneside,

Up to July: Kingston upon Hull, Reading, Northamptonshire, Wakefield.

Up to June: Nottingham, Shropshire, Southend on Sea, Warwickshire.

Up to March (2): Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth.

The transparency crackdown was originally announced in 2010, putting pressure on councils to publish details of spends over £500.

Some councils later adapted this to cover purchases over £250, with data typically including spends on equipment and service hire.

But, last year, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced plans to make the discretionary measures mandatory, which should happen by the spring.

The transparency code says council spending data should be published not later than one month after the quarter to which the data and information is applicable.

Lewis added: "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."

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