Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pledge No. 5 - Transparency

Trust in politics is low. We will make a start in changing this by being open and transparent, publishing every item of council spending over £500. It's your money; we'll be straight with you. We should be accountable when spending your money.

I've seen this work in other authorities. People consider their actions more carefully when they are laid open to wider scrutiny. The very act of publishing the figures is likely to help drive down costs. Looking back at a list of items of council spending from the previous year might also be an enlightening experience for residents who are paying their council tax without much idea where their money is going.

Our Commitment: We will publish all council spending over £500 on Sutton's website.

7 comments:

David B, CB said...

It's a bit quiet here, so let's play devil's advocate... will that include details of all salaries paid?

Also, what will it cost to collate and present this data? All items over £500 seems a very low threshold to me - I'm all in favour of transparency, but there must be hundreds of invoices going through the system for between £500 and £1,000 which, itemised, may appear so obscure as to cause more confusion and generate more queries than it's worth.

Have you received a breakdown of figures from Finance to check the viability of this, Paul? I know how difficult it is to get meaningful figures from bureaucrats, especially in opposition.

I'm worried you will harness yourself with a promise that is impracticable to deliver - and, moreover, the undercurrent may be taken as a suggestion there is something being hidden at present.

My view is that you'd be better off putting your energies into reining in the absurd levels of unwarranted consultancy fees currently being incurred.

The problem with having a general and local election at the same time is that national promises get confused with local ones - and I'm concerned that the national issues and promises will muddy the waters to the Lib Dem's advantage here in Sutton.

Cllr David Pickles said...

Sounds like a direct copy of the national party promise. Best to cut out the non-jobs and be done with it, instead of promising gimmicks. By the way, I look forward to purchasing those 2 extra boxes of matches each week.

Scully said...

Davids

The transparency pledge is actually a direct copy of the actions of Windsor & Maidenhead who have introduced this to great effect. The national Conservative party have taken it on board as well. I went to see David Burbage and his team to investigate this and their recycling scheme which we shall also be trialling.

We use the same invoicing software as Windsor & Maidenhead and it took them a day to design the report necessary to publish the figures at the press of a button. So this pledge is actually the easiest to deliver and is something that we should have been doing ages ago. In preparing for our budget amendment we found it incredibly difficult to find out how many jobs in the council are unfilled and how many external consultants we use. A line in the council's budget explains that they will save £250k by reconfiguring brown bins. What on earth does that mean?

If taxpayers could have a better understanding about exactly where their money is going, it puts the spotlight on officers thinking about spending and councillors who too often, allow big spending decisions to wash over them instead of scrutinising more closely.

David P. I trust you'll be explaining why you didn't support a cut in tax or even a freeze?

David B, CB said...

Quote:

If taxpayers could have a better understanding about exactly where their money is going, it puts the spotlight on officers thinking about spending and councillors who too often, allow big spending decisions to wash over them instead of scrutinising more closely."

How true!

michael said...

One Ukip councillor couldn't vote on council tax because he hasn't paid his council tax and the other one sat there and failed to back plans to cut council tax and freeze it for successive years.

That's really called standing up for local people, isn't it?

Sutton Student said...

UKIP need not worry about any taxation policies, or any policies for that matter. It is one of the benefits of being a permanent opposition party as opposed to ones with a plan. Happy to criticise but offer no alternatives.

Cllr David Pickles said...

......er "Michael" - I would be very careful what you are implying here. If you are implying that Cllr Theobald has not paid his council tax, I reckon you are on the road to being sued for slander and he has fought a long and lonely battle against this council's inefficiency where his payments are concerned. I can verify that also, so if I were you I would think twice before making such scurrilous accusations.