Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has published the final Code of Recommended Practice for council transparency which it claims will help reveal the fine details of authorities' daily business, including senior salaries and contracts.
Already every council in England except Nottingham City Council publishes data on all their spending over £500 on a regular basis.
Ministers believe that data transparency should extend beyond local spending and that full disclosure should be every council's default position. Councils will now be expected to have regard to the Code in all their data publications. Subject to consultation, ministers are minded to make the Code a legally binding requirement to ensure authorities can be held fully accountable to the local people they serve.
The code of practice calls on local authorities such as councils and fire and rescue services to shine a light on every part of their business, from employees' salaries over £58,200 and details of all their contracts and tenders to details of grants to voluntary organisations, performance information and the locations of public land and building assets. It also establishes three key principles behind council transparency; timeliness, openness and mindfulness of local demand.
Releasing this information to the public,says the government could provide a wealth of local knowledge and spark more improvements in the way services are delivered. Faster publication and easier access for the public and companies could open new possibilities for real-time analysis and response and opportunities for small businesses to enter new markets.