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Tougher transparency rules for councils



A new edition of the Local Government Transparency Code will require local authorities to publish data on parking charge profits as well as contracts and details of land and building assets, the department for Communities and Local Government announced today.

Announcing a "new dawn for town hall transparency", local government minister Kris Hopkins said "This new wave of town hall transparency will empower armchair auditors right across the land to expose municipal waste and ensure councils are making the sensible savings necessary to freeze council tax and protect frontline services."

According to the department, the open data push will ensure information published by councils in the name of local transparency and accountability is made even more accessible. The new law will come into force in early November when councils will also be obliged to publish details of contracts and all land and building assets they are sitting on as well as subsidies given to trade unions including so-called 'facility time'."

The code states that local authorities must publish quarterly details of each individual item of expenditure that exceeds £500. Information that must be published annually includes details of all land and building assets, with unique property reference number, an organisation chart including salaries and details of trade union 'facility time'.

Councils will also be expected to publish details of new contracts. The code notes that "the government has not seen any evidence that publishing details about contracts entered into by local authorities would prejudice procurement exercises or the interests of commercial organisations, or breach commercial confidentiality unless specific confidentiality clauses are included in contracts". Therefore "commercial confidentiality should not, in itself, be a reason for local authorities to not follow the provisions of this code".

The code recommends that authorities publish data sets in "three star" formats - halfway up the government classification of openness. This involves using non proprietary formats such as comma-separated values or XML.


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