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Transparency in Local Government

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 5th September 2011.

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Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale 2:30 pm, 5th September 2011

What steps he is taking to improve transparency in local government.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Following public consultation earlier this year, I will shortly publish a code of recommended practice on transparency, setting out the principles and minimum standards that authorities should follow. That will ensure that councils can be held fully accountable to the people they serve.

Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

I think we can all agree that greater transparency is a friend of the democratic process, but it needs to be backed up by the empowerment of local residents. How will the Localism Bill drive through both transparency and greater democratic input?

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The Localism Bill will indeed do that. Perhaps the most notable of its provisions is on the transparency of chief executive and senior salaries, which will have to go through a vote of the whole council. I am sure my hon. Friend understands that the Localism Bill is just part of the move towards transparency, which might better be described as ensuring that the public are kept informed.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

How transparent is it for Ministers to mask the real cuts in local government spending, such as the 16% cut for Nottingham city council, by dreaming up a statistical methodology that they call spending power and spinning it as a cut of just 8%? Why do they not just come clean about the cuts to the poorest areas in the country?

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The body that thought up the spending power recommendation was the Local Government Association. Indeed, immediately before we announced it, Chris Williamson, who is sat on the Labour Front Bench, endorsed it as the way we should go.