Nottingham refuses 'to waste time and money' putting spending details online

8 Feb 11
Nottingham City Council is defying government orders to publish all spending over £500, claiming it is too busy dealing with budget cuts
By Lucy Phillips

8 February 2011

Nottingham City Council is defying government orders to publish all spending over £500, claiming it is too busy dealing with budget cuts.

As of yesterday Nottingham was one of 7 out of 354 councils in England that had not met the government’s January 31 deadline for publishing all spending over £500 online.

But while the others have all pledged to meet the requirement by the end of this month, Nottingham told Public Finance that it had no intention of publishing the data unless it is forced to do so by law.

Labour deputy leader of the council Graham Chapman said: ‘We have said that we will publish accounts over £500 if it becomes a legal requirement to do so. We are happy for information to be transparently available for public scrutiny but feel that the time and money needed to implement this change is wasteful and a distraction at a time when we are coping with £60m of cuts in government funding.’

In a further swipe at Whitehall policy he added: ‘The government talks about localism but as this issue shows, it seems intent on interfering at every opportunity.’

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced the £500 spending requirement in July as part of a drive to encourage the public to hold councils to account for their spending. While initially a voluntary measure, Pickles can draw on reserve powers to force councils to comply.  

Yesterday, he published a draft consultation on recommended practice for local government data transparency, which included responsibilities to publish spending over £500 and to nameall staff paid more than £58,200 a year.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Communities and Local Government made it clear that the government would use its powers of enforcement. She told PF: ‘If councils fail to comply with this code once it is in force, then the secretary of state will consider making it a legislative requirement. A legislative requirement would mean that failure by a local authority to comply would be unlawful.’

Other councils that missed the end of January deadline for publishing spending over £500 included Bradford, Peterborough, Epsom & Ewell, Hyndburn, Eastbourne and Lincolnshire.

Bradford and Hyndburn were due to publish their data today while Peterborough said theirs would be online by the end of the week. Lincolnshire, Eastbourne and Epsom & Ewell were aiming to comply by the end of February.

Epsom & Ewell said they had missed the deadline ‘due to the higher priority given to implementing £750,000 of operational savings required due to grant cuts’ as well as software problems related to publishing the information.

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