Tomorrow (Wednesday) sees an opposition day debate on ‘local spending reports’. These were introduced by the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 and were intended to detail all the public spending in a borough.
You might think that already exists. For example it’s easy to identify what the council is spending in Wandsworth, everything the council spends is (pretty much) in Wandsworth. But there are complications. How do you account for children educated in a neighbouring borough, or children from neighbouring boroughs educated here?
And then there are a whole range of other agencies who work in Wandsworth but do not publish their spending, so, for example obviously Job Centre Plus work in the borough, but we don’t know their borough spend. Likewise, we’ve no idea of the ‘share’ of NHS spend Wandsworth. Nor do we know how much of the central spend of the police goes to Wandsworth. The list goes on.
The fact is that no-one really has a good idea of how public money is being spent in their area. And because no-one really has that idea can anyone really say that public money is being spent effectively? It was a core part of the Sustainable Communities Act that local spending reports would support informed localism by allowing us to ‘bid’ to take the funding to provide a service locally.
Unfortunately the Government seem to be watering down the commitment to public local spending reports. Instead they are proposing to only publish the easily available information from councils, the police, fire brigade and primary care trusts. This means that the bulk of public spending by central government will go unreported, and spending will lack transparency.
The debate is allied with Early Day Motion 1064 which has cross-party support (in Wandsworth it’s been signed by Labour’s Martin Linton and Conservative Justine Greening) and is part of the Local Works campaign.
I’d encourage anyone to follow the Local Works advice of taking a few moments and calling or emailing their MP and asking them to “Please vote in support of Early Day Motion 1064 on Local Spending Reports at the substantive debate in Parliament this Wednesday.” You can find our who your MP is from findyourmp.parliament.uk.