Lessons in transparency

October 06, 2010 12:58 PM

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has taken a lead in increasing transparency in his department and streamlining his department with the aim of increasing efficiency and ensuring taxpayers are not forced to foot the bill for government incompetence.
Having already instructed every local authority in the UK to publish spending over £500 he has gone above and beyond what is required of government departments and has revealed a list of new austerity actions aimed at cutting waste and bringing down spending. Some of his ideas included ensuring staff use public transport, ending refreshments in internal meetings, cutting down on first-class post and closing the departments HQ at nights and weekends. While individually these may all seem small savings, if every department and every council becomes as thrifty, then bigger savings can be made. Eric Pickles said


"Being open about how taxpayers' money is spent will push central and local government into rooting out waste and duplication. That's why we're throwing open the shutters and bringing the full glare of the public's eye onto spending. This new transparent era means a new way of thinking for councils but I'm showing them it's possible by publishing more of my department's spending online. I can't expect councils to cut waste if we don't get our own house in order.”

The examples of transparency and cutting waste are rubbing off. This week Hammersmith and Fulham council have made it their goal to become the most transparent council in the UK. While complying with Eric Pickles’ new guidelines, they aim to go further by “providing visibility of payments to the voluntary sector, allowances and expenses for members', the register of buildings and land that is council owned and its total spend as recorded in its finance system.” Hammersmith and Fulham Council believe that this should be a proactive exercise for local government and one that can push for higher levels of transparency than required by central government. Councillor Harry Phibbs has said:


"We don't want to simply grudgingly comply with the government requirements on external payments as just a box ticking exercise,"

This is in stark contrast to the London borough of Harrow. Instead of embracing the initiatives put forward by Eric Pickles, they have chosen to reject them and will have to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ to implement them. While they will ultimately have no choice, their decision to obstruct the execution of these measures will not resonate well with local residents who will be questioning the motive behind such a decision.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has taken a lead in increasing transparency in his department and streamlining his department with the aim of increasing efficiency and ensuring taxpayers are not forced to foot the bill for government incompetence.
Having already instructed every local authority in the UK to publish spending over £500 he has gone above and beyond what is required of government departments and has revealed a list of new austerity actions aimed at cutting waste and bringing down spending. Some of his ideas included ensuring staff use public transport, ending refreshments in internal meetings, cutting down on first-class post and closing the departments HQ at nights and weekends. While individually these may all seem small savings, if every department and every council becomes as thrifty, then bigger savings can be made. Eric Pickles said


"Being open about how taxpayers' money is spent will push central and local government into rooting out waste and duplication. That's why we're throwing open the shutters and bringing the full glare of the public's eye onto spending. This new transparent era means a new way of thinking for councils but I'm showing them it's possible by publishing more of my department's spending online. I can't expect councils to cut waste if we don't get our own house in order.”

The examples of transparency and cutting waste are rubbing off. This week Hammersmith and Fulham council have made it their goal to become the most transparent council in the UK. While complying with Eric Pickles’ new guidelines, they aim to go further by “providing visibility of payments to the voluntary sector, allowances and expenses for members', the register of buildings and land that is council owned and its total spend as recorded in its finance system.” Hammersmith and Fulham Council believe that this should be a proactive exercise for local government and one that can push for higher levels of transparency than required by central government. Councillor Harry Phibbs has said:


"We don't want to simply grudgingly comply with the government requirements on external payments as just a box ticking exercise,"

This is in stark contrast to the London borough of Harrow. Instead of embracing the initiatives put forward by Eric Pickles, they have chosen to reject them and will have to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ to implement them. While they will ultimately have no choice, their decision to obstruct the execution of these measures will not resonate well with local residents who will be questioning the motive behind such a decision.

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