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National politics

What’s good for the goose

I will be reading the full coalition agreement with interest over the next few days.

One thing that already leaps out at me is that the coalition has adopted some key Tory policies on transparent government, namely:

  • We will require full, online disclosure of all central government spending and contracts over £25,000.
  • We will create a new ‘right to data’ so that government-held datasets can be requested and used by the public, and then published on a regular basis.
  • We will require all councils to publish meeting minutes and local service and performance data.
  • We will require all councils to publish items of spending above £500, and to publish contracts and tender documents in full.

As someone who has harried the GLA and various government departments to collect information on what they are doing I am thrilled to see this taking place. It already happens at the GLA since Boris came to power (the threshold there is £1,000), see here, and Windsor and Maidenhead council (threshold £500), see here.

I look forward to the power that these measures will give to opposition councillors in Ealing. As a big believer in transparency one of my proudest achievements as a portfolio holder in Ealing was to get the parking people to publish stats showing how many tickets were issued each month for which offence and which location, see here.

I am not very pleased though to see central government getting away with a £25,000 threshold whereas local government has to work with a £500 threshold. I would suggest that £1,000 all round would be more sensible. I know that lots of people think that local government is a bit Mickey Mouse and amateurish. As someone who has tried to sell to both central and local government I can tell you that local government is a lot more penny-pinching and street-wise than central government. This discipline is much more sorely needed in central government and the government has let itself of lightly. It smells prime minister. You really should sort this.

8 replies on “What’s good for the goose”

Phil

I really like the bit about the contracts being published in full.

If they are professional enough there should be some reference to performance management. Perhaps that will lead me down the path to answering the recent question about housing management which twice now I have asked about.

This proposal in general is very very overdue and I very strongly support it. I have always thought it disgraceful that government can hide behind mistakes by not revealing contractual obligations.

The next bit of transparency I wish to see is the debates in the Council chamber being recorded in sound and then in video. If parliament can do it then has Ealing something to hide?

George,

I’m glad you are glad. A couple of things though.

I am not your personal data service. If you want to winkle stuff out then please do but I haven’t got the time to answer all of your questions. Most things come up in reports to cabinet or scrutiny panels. Look for them.

One way of accessing council debates is to actually turn up to one. How hard is that?

Phil

Not hard but not the point. Any way the last time I went the acoustics were pathetic. Unless they have been improved, go to a debate and sit in the public gallery.

I am talking about transparency and publishing to a wider audience. What’s your problem with improving democracy?

Heckle, heckle, heckle Mr Cheyne.

I write much of WEN’s web site and all of my own web site.

Where is your blog/website located Mr Cheyne?

I welcome Councillor Taylor’s outpourings. He imparts information to us all along with his trenchant political views. Long may it continue.

Eric,

Nice to hear from you.

Iain is maybe being a bit protective of his old rowing buddy (namely me).

How did you find the whole independent candidate thing?

@Eric: You wouldn’t be at all interested in my blog, but you’re welcome to google for it. I’m also active on Facebook and Twitter. I’m pleasantly surprised that you acknowledge Phil making the effort. I now have some respect for you.

@Phil: You can look after yourself, but some of the commenters here have abused your generosity.

“I know that lots of people think that local government is a bit Mickey Mouse and amateurish.” I think that’s partly about engagement – I must admit that till the past couple of years I never really thought much what the local council did (shocking really, especially as my father used to be a council officer in the shires). So what changed for me? For one thing, very visible changes (probably lamp posts & sensible recycling); another, active councillors (the northfields 3) not just knocking doors 2 days before the election. Though I’ve never quite yet made it to a ward forum.

How to solve? More engagement in both directions – more visibility on what our council & councillors are doing for us / for our money (more of a challenge in opposition I suspect) and finding ways to engage the public more …

The idea of posting council meetings might get more people to pay attention to what’s going on and possibly make people more inclinded to turn up even. BBC Democracy Live & BBC Parliament can be suprisingly informative… A local version…? so long as it doesn’t cost us much! Maybe *all* councillors should publish a blog on the LBE website ?

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