DUTY TO PUBLISH

September 30th, 2011 by James Goudie KC

Part 2 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 (Sections 2 to 4) relates to publication of information by local authorities.  These provisions implemented some of the proposals which were contained in a consultation document, “Publication of Financial and Other Information by Local Authorities”, issued by the Department of the Environment in October 1979.  As originally envisaged, the placing of a duty upon local authorities to publish information with regard to the discharge of their functions was to be secured primarily by regulations made by the SoS under the Act, but with supplementation from a Code of Practice prepared jointly by CIPFA and SOLACE.  As enacted, s2 makes a Code of Recommended Practice (or more than one) the primary vehicle for securing publication by specified authorities of this information, the SoS retaining a fallback power to enable him to make regulations requiring authorities to comply with any provision in the Code or Codes if in some way they fail to do so.  S3 gives the SoS power to make regulations in order to secure that where they are not already doing so authorities publish the information which is required by any code of recommended practice issued under s2.

Pursuant to s2, on 28 September 2011 the SoS published a Code of Recommended Practice for (English) Local Authorities on Data Transparency.  Paragraph 12 states that, as a minimum, the public data, meaning the objective, factual data, on which policy decisions are based and on which public services are assessed, or which is collected or generated in the course of public service delivery, that should be released are:

  • Expenditure over £500, (including costs, supplier and transaction information).  Any sole trader or body acting in a business capacity in receipt of payments of at least £500 of public money should expect such payments to be transparent.

 

  • Senior employee salaries, names (with the option for individuals to refuse to consent for their name to be published), job descriptions, responsibilities, budgets and numbers of staff.  ‘Senior employee salaries’ is defined as all salaries which are £58,200 and above (irrespective of post), which is the Senior Civil Service minimum pay band.  Budgets should include the overall salary cost of staff reporting to each senior employee.

 

  • An organisational chart of the staff structure of the local authority including salary bands and details of currently vacant posts.

 

  • The ‘pay multiple’ – the ratio between the highest paid salary and the median average salary of the whole of the authority’s workforce.

 

  • Councillor allowances and expenses.

 

  • Copies of contracts and tenders to businesses and to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector.

 

  • Grants to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector should be clearly itemised and listed.

 

  • Policies, performance, external audits and key inspections and key indicators on the authorities’ fiscal and financial position.

 

  • The location of public land and building assets and key attribute information that is normally recorded on asset registers and

 

  • Data of democratic running of the local authority including the constitution, election results, committee minutes, decision-making processes and records of decisions.

Paragraph 20 states that the Government believes that local transparency can be implemented in a way that complies with the DPA.

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