Experts join the call to get council spending data online

Data experts across the country have echoed Eric Pickles’ call to get local authorities’ spending data online for the public to scrutinise.

Councils have until January publish details of all their spending over £500 in full, and the clock is ticking with just 64 days to get their house in order.

A number of councils are one step ahead with their data online already, but open data experts are urging them to go one step further, think outside the box and consider how they can make the information more useful for the public.

Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion, said:
“I welcome today’s announcement that shows the government encouraging councils to publish their data online. Transparency, not just on spending but on all data across government, is essential in allowing people to engage with and challenge government. Today is a good step forward in opening up people’s access to information, but data on its own is not enough. I’d like to see the digital community stepping forward to build applications to make that data tangible and useful for the public – and maybe even making something more enterprising out of it!

“Councils should also see this as an opportunity to inspire more local people to get online and to show them that the internet can be a useful tool for them – whether that’s inspecting their councillor’s spend or accessing services and saving money themselves. All councils should sign up to the raceonline2012 campaign and make a pledge to help get everyone in their area online, not just their data.”

Jessica Crowe, Executive Director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny said:
“Transparency is a vital element of good governance and can help public bodies be accountable to the people they serve and whose money they spend. We urge local authorities to think creatively not just about the data they publish but how the public can use that information to hold them to account in a meaningful way and lead to better outcomes and value for money. We hope that other arms of government will follow CLG’s example in promoting the principle of greater transparency across all public bodies.”