Shortly before the last General Election, the TaxPayers’ Alliance produced a manifesto. Here is the latest in our series of posts looking at how the Coalition Government has performed in relation to our recommendations.
When the TaxPayers’ Alliance was formed in 2004, the level of spending transparency at both local and national government was appalling. That’s why we began to use the Freedom of Information Act to conduct research to uncover exactly how taxpayers’ money was being spent.
Thankfully, things have changed. When we published our Public Sector Rich List in 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to publish senior public salaries over £150,000. This was backed up by politicians of all parties.
Since the Coalition came to power, a lot of spending data has been released. Government contracts worth over £25,000 are posted online; payments to suppliers of £500 or more at local councils are open for all to see; and departmental credit card spending is much more open.
At a local government level, where our campaign was focused in the early days because the available information was so opaque, things have improved dramatically. The Local Government Transparency Code 2014 says that disclosure of data should follow three simple rules: it should be demand led; it should be open; and disclosure should be made in a timely manner.
We think that those principles are broadly right and should apply across the rest of the public sector.
Lots of great work has been done in this area, and full transparency is still a key TPA mission. We have awarded a score of 4/5 because more data can be published, and more quickly. And if payments to suppliers over £500 can be published, then what’s to stop full publication below that level?