Merton Council has published the first details of all its expenditure over £500, several months ahead of the January 2011 deadline set by central Government.
In a bid to be as transparent as possible, last week (Thursday 30 September) Merton put details of all its expenditure over £500 in August online, meeting the demand as set out in a letter to all local authorities sent from The Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP in June asking for local councils to be more transparent.
Merton already publishes a wide variety of information about the council and the processes it undertakes but now councils are expected to do even more and make details of spending on all goods and services that fall above the £500 threshold available for the public to see.
Information about payments greater than £500 will be presented on a month by month basis and provide detail on the supplier, the exact amount spent, which department has made the expenditure and what the expense is for.
With official guidelines yet to be provided Merton has pushed forward and made local decisions as to the best way to present the information and protect financial information or personal details from being published.
To ensure data confidentiality there is some information that has had to be removed from the listings. This is mainly linked to commercially sensitive information or to protect personal details of individuals being made public. Where this occurs the term ‘redacted’ is used. Examples of where we need to redact details are often related to direct payments made to social care clients or where the payment has been made to an individual or individual payments to private landlords for our housing clients. A high percentage of our payments on this list will be linked to our housing and care services.
The council is also planning to make more information available in the future, and the information governance team would welcome suggestions on what information you would like the council to publish. You can send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis said:
” Merton Council is dedicated to being a transparent organisation and offering residents clear information about how the council works and spends its money to provide the best services possible.
“Before this demand was sent through from central Government we already published a huge amount of information online and so we are pleased to be able to bring even more transparency, and ahead of the deadline as set by Government.
” Aside from giving residents a better understanding of the council’s finances, with this new level of transparency we hope that the significant burden on both time and money that Freedom of Information (FOI) requests cause could be reduced too.”
To find out more go to http://www.merton.gov.uk/spending
The council routinely publishes information about itself, its spending, priorities, decisions, policies and procedures, as well as lists, registers and about the services it provides. There is a dedicated section on the Merton Council website which should help you find out more. http://www.merton.gov.uk/guide_to_information