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The Smarter Government White Paper published in December 2009 highlighted the key role technology can play in providing increased transparency on the effectiveness of Government.
In line with this, the Government is launching a consultation to seek views on how centrally held financial data could be published in a user friendly and accessible way, with a view to putting a live system in place by summer 2010.
Providing views on these proposals
The proposals are available below. The Treasury would be interested in views on both the content and presentation of financial data, specifically:
- To what extent would this dataset improve understanding of public spending, compared to data already available?
- Are there any examples of published public spending data that the Treasury might be able to learn from?
- How could the proposed new dataset best be presented to maximise accessibility and usability?
- How might the Treasury improve the presentation of existing public spending data to make it more user-friendly?
Views and/or requests for further discussion should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial data currently published
The Treasury currently publishes public spending outturn and plans information against a number of frameworks. The content of the main publications is as follows:
- the Budget and Pre-Budget Report contain updated departmental budgets, which the Government uses to plan and control public spending
- the Main and Supplementary Estimates set out the resources and cash that Parliament are asked to authorise
- Supplementary Budgetary Information (SBI) provides a reconciliation between budgets and Estimates
- performance against budgetary and Parliamentary controls is shown in the ‘Public expenditure: provisional outturn’ release each summer
- the impact of public spending against functional, economic category and country/regional frameworks is set out in the annual Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA).
The Estimates and SBI publications both include information about departmental spending programmes at a level of detail agreed with Select Committees. Similar information is published by departments in their Annual Reports and Resource Accounts.
In addition to this, aggregated public sector spending is jointly published by the Treasury and Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the monthly Public Sector Finances statistical bulletin. The ONS separately publish more detailed information on public spending in the quarterly National Accounts and annual Blue Book.
The impact of the alignment project
The Government recognises the complexity of public spending reporting and so announced simplifications in the Green Paper ‘The Governance of Britain’. This will more closely align budgets, Estimates and Resource Accounts, which will simplify Government’s financial reporting to Parliament by ensuring that it reports in a more consistent fashion. Implementation of the alignment project has started with changes to the budgeting framework for 2010-11.
- The Governance of Britain’ (PDF, external website, opens in new window)
- Clear Line of Sight - the Alignment Project
Proposed content, format and timing of data release
Set out in the box below is the centrally held information that the Treasury propose to make available. This proposal has been designed to work alongside both existing public spending publications and the alignment project.
For each department, the Treasury is proposing to release quarterly in-year budgeting data disaggregated by Departmental Expenditure Limits/Annually Managed Expenditure, resource/capital, admin/programme, spending programme (consistent with those published in the Estimates/Supplementary Budgetary Information) and economic category (pay, procurement etc).
Releasing this data would provide access to much more detailed ‘real-time’ public spending data than has previously been available. Data could be available within 30 days of the end of the quarter to which it relates. The Treasury would also publish annual outturn data for the last five years on the same basis, consistent with existing National Statistics releases. This is the period for which departments are asked to maintain spending data against current definitions.
In order to make this information as accessible and user-friendly as possible, the Treasury propose to release updated information each quarter on both its own website and on data.gov.uk. The current expectation is that data will be released in Excel and csv formats, with further formats considered as part of the consultation process.
An example of the proposed data is available to download below. This comprises an example of the raw data (in excel format) as well as a graphical presentation of this data (for excel 2003 onwards) that can be manipulated by users. A short guidance document is provided to describe the fields contained within the data set and to explain how to use the excel tool.