Making transparency useful

In the coalition government's Programme for Government document, we saw that councils will have to publish spending above £500. As big believers in public spending transparency we naturally welcomed this. It's something that can be done easily and helps local taxpayers understand how their council operates and what they spend their money on. Along with accountability, transparency can help drive down costs of procurement contracts too, so there are lots of other benefits.

Just as important as transparency itself is having data that people understand and can navigate their way around. Windsor and Maidenhead council - who already publish spending over £500 - have a fantastic tool called Spotlight on Spend that is easy to use and shows how councils can adapt to the new government proposals. Now they aim to go further with transparency. Windsor and Maidenhead have managed to cut council tax by 4 percent too; transparency has played a big part in this.

The Greater London Authority also have a very good data access service on their website. It'd be great to hear of any more from around the country. Any suggestions?

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