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Blazing a trail on spending transparency

The Secretary of State opens the books to an army of armchair auditors as all Departmental spending over £500 goes online. Eric Pickles turns…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Secretary of State opens the books to an army of armchair auditors as all Departmental spending over £500 goes online.

Eric Pickles turns the spotlight on spending firmly on his own department today as details of how £314 million of taxpayer money was spent by the Department for Communities and Local Government last year are published for the first time.

The decision by the Secretary of State to make spending data more freely available makes the Communities Department a trailblazer for transparency within Whitehall and ahead of local government.

Every item of Departmental spending on goods and services over £500 in 2009/10 has been put online, allowing the public to see what was purchased, for how much and from whom.

Previously unseen Department data shows 1900 separate items of expenditure totalling £314 million. This includes £635,000 on taxis and cars and nearly £310,000 on catering and food.

The figures also show that the Department last year spent £16m on marketing, advertising, promotion and events.

The Secretary of State has asked the main Departmental Arms Length Bodies to open their books too. Information on these seventeen organisations gives detail of another £337million of spending.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

Greater openness in spending is the best way to root out waste, spot duplication and increase value for money. That is why I have been asking councils to ‘show me the money’ so local taxpayers can see where their hard earned cash is going.

Now it’s our turn. I don’t believe in one rule for councils and one for this Department. Central Government spends billions of tax pounds every year and transparency at this level of spending is just as important.

This Department, like the rest of Whitehall, needs to look at where every penny is going and getting this data out in the open will help that process.

The simple task of putting spending online will open the doors to an army of armchair auditors who will be able to see at a glance exactly where millions of pounds spent last year went. The public and the press can go through the books and hold Ministers to account for how taxpayers’ money is being spent.

The data is already highlighting how we need to do things differently. That means spending more carefully, getting better deals and asking ourselves at every turn whether every purchase is needed and whether it provides value for the taxpayers’ pound. Looking at last year’s spending it is clear that there is room for improvement.

Today’s publication follows on from new requirements on local authorities to improve transparency and publish their spending information. Eric Pickles has called for all town hall spending on goods and services above £500 to be out online by January. Twenty eight Local Authorities have already done this and more detail can be found at

As part of the new Government’s commitment to transparency, accountability and openness, all central government departments are required to publish spending over £25,000 online from November 2010. The Secretary of State thinks that having set the bar at £500 for town halls, his own Department should play by the same rules. Communities and Local Government is the first government department to make such a move.

In September (ahead of deadline) CLG will publish spend data for the first quarter of 2010.  From the November deadline, Communities and Local Government and its Arms Length Bodies will put details of all spending over £500 online as a matter of routine at the end of each month.

Greater openness of government data is part of wider plans to identify waste, reduce public spending and protect frontline services. The Department for Communities and Local Government is announcing today that £32m in year savings will be made following a review of spending decisions and pilot programmes.

In May, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury wrote to Secretaries of State asking them to re-examine all pilot schemes within their respective departments to evaluate whether they represented value for money and would deliver robust findings with a view to stopping those which did not. Consequently Communities and Local Government is today announcing that 5 pilot schemes will be discontinued saving £3m.

A further £29m savings have been identified following a review of all spending decisions since January 1st this year. Ministers have sought to cancel or suspend projects which are not affordable, do not represent good value for money, or which did not reflect the Government’s priorities.

The £32m savings announced today are in addition to £6.2bn savings announced by the Chief Secretary in June.

Notes to editors

  1. Detail of all Communities and Local Government and spending on goods and services over £500 for the period April 2009 to April 2010 can be found at:

The data does not include information on grant payments for this period. This information will be available later in the year.

  1. Detail of spending on goods and services over £500 by the Department for Communities and Local Government Arms Length Bodies can be found at:

These bodies are: Audit Commission, Community Development Foundation, Firebuy, Fire Service College, Government Offices, Homes and Communities Agency, Independent Housing Ombudsman, Leasehold Advisory Service, London Thames Gateway Development Agency, Ordnance Survey, Planning Inspectorate, QE11 conference centre, Standards Board for England, Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, Valuation Tribunal Service, West Northants Development Corporation. These bodies are the 17 highest spending arms length bodies (ALB’s) and accounts for more than 98% of CLG Group spend on goods and services.

  1. The Department has also published today a detailed breakdown of all marketing expenditure incurred by its Communications Directorate during the financial year 2009/2010.  This is available online at

  2. In September Communities and Local Government will publish spending data for the first quarter of  2010/11. By end October Communities and Local Government  second quarter data for 2010/11 and quarter one and two data for Arms Length Bodies will be published. From November, data for Communities and Local Government and Arms Length Bodies will be published monthly by 15th working day of every month via CLG website and

  3. To find out which councils have already put their spending data online please visit

  4. Further details of the £32m in year savings and pilot schemes that have been discontinued can be found at

  5. To feedback ideas on CLG’s transparency spending email marking your enquiry ‘transparency’ in the subject line.


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Published 12 August 2010