Conservative Home

« One local by-election result from yesterday | Main | Oldham Council spends £3,000 on visit to luxury hotel to discuss cost cutting »

Cameron outlines transparency plans for Town Halls

In his speech this morning to the Consevative Councillors Association in London, David Cameron explained how a conservative Government woould make Town hall spending transparent. The ruuneration packages of staff earning over £58,000 will be made public, as will councillors exppenses and all spending over £500

Caroline Spelman, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

‘Under Labour, council tax has doubled, whilst frontline services like bin collections have halved. A Conservative Government will work with councils to offer better quality public services and more value for money. By giving the public full access to the books, we will create a new army of armchair auditors, vetting town hall spending, pay and expenses. This will identify waste and bureaucracy, freeing up resources that can be used to improve services or lower taxes, depending on what local people decide.’

The full text of David Cameron's speech was as follows:

It’s great to be back here standing in front of the biggest army of Conservative Councillors in twenty-five years.

We’ve been on quite a journey over these past four years.

It began back in 2006 when we achieved our best local election results since 1992 and put the skids under Tony Blair.

It took us through the 2007 campaign, when we won more than 800 council seats.

In 2008, where in Bury, in North Tyneside, and Wales, together we showed that we could win in all parts of the country again.

And last year we took control of councils we hadn’t won in a generation – Lancashire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire.

We are now the largest party in local government.

We have more Conservative Councillors than Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined.

And with almost 10,000 Conservative Councillors, and more than 200 Conservative-run councils, we are in the strongest position we’ve been in since the 1980s

That success has been your success, and it’s been based on your achievements and your record.

I’ve been proud to play a part in that journey.

I’ve made 187 local election campaign tours since 2005.

I’ve visited 126 places.

They tell me I’ve been on the road for a total of almost three months on local election campaigns.

So after all that campaigning, I need to ask you a favour in return.

There are just two months to go now until a General Election.

This isn’t some election it would be nice to win.

This is an election that it is absolutely essential to win.

This country is in the worst mess it’s been in for a generation.

And to win this General Election, we’ve got to achieve one of the biggest swings in British political history.

And we have to do so at a time when politics and politicians are held in low regard.

People are rightly cynical and apathetic, fearing nothing will ever change.

We have to convince them that change is possible, that change is real.

So it’s your door knocking, your canvassing, your telephoning, your leafleting, your campaigning, your activism and your energy we need if we are going to turn our country around.

You are the army – and it’s time to mobilise.


And let’s be clear about the choice at this election.

Five more years of Gordon Brown’s tired government making things worse.

Or change with the Conservatives who have the energy, leadership and values to get the country moving again.

We need change in our economy, backing aspiration and opportunity for all.

That’s why we will act now to cut the deficit, help keep mortgage rates low and get the economy moving.

We need change in our society by encouraging responsibility and backing those who do the right thing.

That’s why we will make Britain more family-friendly, back the NHS, tackle welfare dependency and the causes of poverty, reform education and raise standards in schools.

And we need change in our politics, giving people more power and control over their lives.

That’s why we will not only sort out the mess of MPs’ expenses, cut Parliament, cut Whitehall, and cut the whole cost of politics – but we will also make it more transparent, more accountable, and more local.


And this election is going to be very different from the last few elections.

The big question in British politics today is not “who do you want to spend some more of your money?”

That was Gordon Brown’s question.

Gordon, it’s over.

There isn’t any money left.

You’ve spent it all.

No, the question today is this: “how do we make things better without just spending money?”

A big part of the answer is by delivering more for less.

This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky philosophy.

It’s what businesses do every day.

They are always thinking “how can I deliver more for my customers while reducing my costs?”

They are constantly looking for creative ways to get more bang for their buck.

Reforming work practices, buying wholesale, cutting out waste and increasing recycling.

And it’s not just businesses that do this.

If “more for less” is the goal, then many of you in this room are the star strikers.

Local government is officially the most efficient part of the public sector.

And it’s Conservative Councils that are leading the way.

Which Councils have the lowest rates of council tax?

Which Councils are safer, are cleaner, are greener?

Which Councils have the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the country?

In each case it is Conservative Councils.

You should be incredibly proud of what you have achieved.

But this is not a time to slap each other on the back.

You’ve got to go further, you’ve got to go faster, you’ve got to do everything you can to keep cutting costs and keep improving services.

It’s not just that your Party needs you...

...because when you succeed, all Conservatives succeed because people notice that their taxes are going down, their streets are getting better and it’s the Conservatives that are doing that...’s that your country needs you as well.

We’ve got a monster deficit, massive social problems, and you’re on the frontline of fixing them both.

So today I want to talk about how you can continue delivering even
more for less.

And there are two things that I want you to do for our country...

…and there’s one big thing I’m going to try to do for you.


The first thing we need from local government is more spending transparency.

One of the great insights of our times is how you can get spending restraint through greater transparency.

Look at MPs’ expenses.

The simple act of publishing MPs’ information online is bringing about real change – transforming the culture of MPs’ expenses at a stroke.

Now just imagine what would happen if we put all big items of public spending online.

It’s not just that an army of armchair auditors will be crawling over the books, rooting out waste, holding officials to account with their scrutiny acting as a straitjacket on spending.

Neither is it just that taxpayers won’t simply have a right to know – but the power to see how their money is spent.

It is that the very act of being transparent will make all of us confront tough questions about how we can spend more wisely.

Let me tell you three specific ways we’re going to take this revolution to local government.

First, we want to ask all Councils to publish all items of public spending over £500 online.

Second, we want Councils to publish every procurement contract they sign.

We want to throw open the books – let people see what’s been agreed and help small businesses to compete for contracts to drive costs down.

The third step is to go further.

We think there is an unanswerable case to go further over transparent pay.

With a Conservative government, we believe that Councils should publish online the details of all local government staff pay packages over a threshold of around £60,000.

I know that perhaps this won’t be that popular with some of you.

But look at it like this.

People up and down the country are tightening their belts.

So what must they think when they see local government chief executives earning more in a year than some of them will earn in a decade?

In Kingston-upon-Hull, the chief executive now earns £213,162 – tens of thousands more than the Prime Minister.

In Islington – yes, that council which issued itself a parking ticket and refused to pay it – there are apparently now 18 members of staff earning more than £100,000.

And Tower Hamlets is the second worst council in Britain for recycling – but it’s been paying the director in charge of recycling a vast £148,173 a year.

Is this really value for money?

Taxpayers should have the tools and information to decide.

And with our plans they will.

And to those who worry about this, I now work in an organisation which publishes my pay and puts all my expenses every time I use my allowances to buy a pack of paper for the printer, pay a mobile phone bill for a member of staff, or buy a sandwich for an intern, it’s immediately put online.

And you know what?

It’s not so bad.

Put it another way: your allowances, your expenses have been published now for years.......why not do the same for well paid staff.?


There’s another way we can deliver more for less – and that is by working together and sharing resources.

If transparency is a modern tool, then working together is tried, tested, and based on long experience.

When you’re looking to bring down costs, you naturally reach out to those around you and say look – “we’re doing the same thing, why don’t we come together and cooperate and share?”

Families do it.

Businesses do it.

And with local government it’s no different.

In my own area in West Oxfordshire, the local council is actually sharing its Chief Executive, its Strategic Director of Resources, and a number of other senior staff with neighbouring Cotswold District Council.

It’s saving both councils around £300,000 year.

And all across the country, we’re seeing the same principle put into practice as local authorities experiment with new partnerships and new ways of delivering returns to scale.

In Solihull, the Head of Procurement is also providing services to Coventry City Council.

Redditch has joined forces with Bromsgrove to share a Chief Executive.

East Dorset District Council has created a clustering arrangement to share services and management with two other local authorities.

And Leicestershire County Council is bringing together ten local authorities and major contractors to work on major highways and bring about a ten per cent saving on costs.

In all these ways, and so many others, we’re seeing more for less in action.

So my message to you is simple:

Please go out there and do even more of it.

Pick up the telephone, talk to your neighbours, find out every possible area where you can cooperate and share.


In exchange for all this, I’m going to give you something you’ve wanted for years... ...that you’ve asked for for years... ...that politicians have been promising for years... ...but that has never really happened.

I’m going to give you much more power and control.

I’m a Conservative.

I trust people.

I believe in local power.

I believe that when decisions are made closer to people they are better decisions, they are more effective decisions, they are cheaper and they tend to make people much happier too.

So when I say what I’m about to say to you, believe me it’s going to happen.

Regional Assemblies.


Quangos like the Standards Board

They’re gone.

All those regulations and process targets and Comprehensive Area Assessments and reorganisations and regional strategies and bureaucracy which you can’t stand and I can’t stand –

They’re scrapped.

And in place of the old centrally-controlled regime, we will give you so much more power over the things that really matter and the things that really make a difference.

We’re going to give you more power over housing and planning

So that with your local residents you can decide the shape, feel and look of your local neighbourhoods.

We will also give you the power to form new local enterprise partnerships.

So instead of regional development agencies deciding your priorities, you will be able to spend more of the money for your area and make your own decisions about economic development.

And we will give you what in legal jargon is called a general power of competence.

So that if there’s something you want doing or if there’s a service you want to save – you will be able to just do it, rather than endlessly wonder whether there is a legal basis to take action.

No-one should be in any doubt about how radically this redistribution of power could change our country.

It will unleash a new era of local power.

Just imagine how our country could look after just a few years of Conservative government.

Local councils with more power… ...more communities controlling their own budgets… ...more citizens holding politicians to account.


But of course, all of this is just going to be a pipedream unless we win this election.

And we will only win that election if you go out there and fight.

I need you to fight for our Party, to fight for our country, to fight for the future we desperately need.

Remember the choice.

Just imagine what five more years of Gordon Brown would be like.

Remember what’s at stake.

A chance to get our country moving and put Britain back on her feet.

And above all, remember that on the big questions of our time – the questions that will decide the future of our country – we have the answers, we have the plans, and we can make change happen this year.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.