The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) recently held a consultation on its proposed ‘Code of recommended practice for local authorities on data transparency.’ The proposed code requires councils to publish information according to three key principles: demand-led, timely and open. To meet these principles, it sets out a commendable list of standards and expectations for councils to disclose data in an automatic, useful manner. For instance, it requires publication of both ‘csv’ and ‘pdf’ file types as a minimum. Pdf is more useful for viewing immediately, whereas a csv file (short for 'comma separated values') is a list of pure text formatted only by commas; not very user-friendly for immediate viewing but highly useful if you plan to rearrange or do any other work with it. We very much welcomed the proposed code, but thought it could be strengthened further by removing loopholes some councils might otherwise exploit to drag their feet. You can see our full response below for our full range of recommendations.
But we also suggested something else that wasn’t in the proposed code at all – HR transparency. We said that public bodies subject to the code should publish a complete list of job titles and job descriptions of every single member of staff. We don’t think it’s necessary to publish remuneration details of staff on junior salaries. But it is important that taxpayers know what staff are employed to do and how many there are doing certain things. Publication of this information would surely lead to more informed debate about priorities in council spending which, in turn, would lead to more care in recruitment and staff allocation.
Hammersmith & Fulham council have made a great step forward in this area of their own accord, publishing detailed structure charts with every single job title. A win for transparency which other councils should emulate, but even they could go further, as our proposal for including job descriptions shows. DCLG and Hammersmith & Fulham should both be congratulated for their moves toward greater openness and transparency. But we should insist on HR transparency across the board and we hope that DCLG include our proposal in their final document.