Wandsworth Council leading on transparency

February 01, 2012 10:41 AM

Transparency shouldn't just be about the amount of taxpayers' money spent, it should also be about how it is spent. It should be easy for residents to go online and see if they are getting value for money.

A good example of how this can be done is Wandsworth Council's latest transparency release. It has published a list of 96 indicators that rank all of their services, highlighting in particular the 27 that residents will be most familiar with. 

The ratings are also benchmarked against every other authority in London, meaning polticians and council officers, as well as residents, are able to see areas in which they can improve service delivery. Where the council's performance is below the London average, a Cabinet Member explains why and details potential actions being taken to see it improve.


Which shows that this isn't a vanity exercise, either; Wandsworth haven't just picked the services they perform the best in to show off. One indicator shows they have the lowest Council Tax in London, but then others show the Borough ranked 15th (out of 32) in terms of major roads in need of repair, 15th for pupils achieving 5 A*-C grade at GCSE and 7th for good management of conservation and nature areas. These are clearly areas they can improve in, relative to other Boroughs. And if other indicators are more important than the 27 selected, then residents can vote into the top 27 those most important to them.

Wandsworth’s initiative also demonstrates that the arbitrary star rankings and traffic light scores dished out by the Audit Commission are unnecessary. They cost taxpayers' money as councils scrambled to score well and comply with top-down targets. Residents are far better judges than a faceless, bureaucratic quango.

While this information is often in the public domain in some form or another, Wandsworth should be congratulated for presenting it in clear and understandable way to local taxpayers. Let’s hope other councils follow suit and allow all taxpayers across the country to benefit from this kind of openness and transparency.Transparency shouldn't just be about the amount of taxpayers' money spent, it should also be about how it is spent. It should be easy for residents to go online and see if they are getting value for money.

A good example of how this can be done is Wandsworth Council's latest transparency release. It has published a list of 96 indicators that rank all of their services, highlighting in particular the 27 that residents will be most familiar with. 

The ratings are also benchmarked against every other authority in London, meaning polticians and council officers, as well as residents, are able to see areas in which they can improve service delivery. Where the council's performance is below the London average, a Cabinet Member explains why and details potential actions being taken to see it improve.


Which shows that this isn't a vanity exercise, either; Wandsworth haven't just picked the services they perform the best in to show off. One indicator shows they have the lowest Council Tax in London, but then others show the Borough ranked 15th (out of 32) in terms of major roads in need of repair, 15th for pupils achieving 5 A*-C grade at GCSE and 7th for good management of conservation and nature areas. These are clearly areas they can improve in, relative to other Boroughs. And if other indicators are more important than the 27 selected, then residents can vote into the top 27 those most important to them.

Wandsworth’s initiative also demonstrates that the arbitrary star rankings and traffic light scores dished out by the Audit Commission are unnecessary. They cost taxpayers' money as councils scrambled to score well and comply with top-down targets. Residents are far better judges than a faceless, bureaucratic quango.

While this information is often in the public domain in some form or another, Wandsworth should be congratulated for presenting it in clear and understandable way to local taxpayers. Let’s hope other councils follow suit and allow all taxpayers across the country to benefit from this kind of openness and transparency.

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