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.