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At least 75 councils are now publishing their spending online

An A-Z guide on the DCLG website lists councils that have so far published paymentst to suppliers over £500. I counted 73. Significantly new ones include Britain's biggest council Birmingham - whose spending can be inspected here. Their timeline also mentions Redbridge and Merton, which are not yet on the A-Z list so that would bring the total to 75. No doubt there are others that have been missed.

Redbridge have also started the Redbridge Conversation, in conjunction with YouGov. The site allows you to shift sliders for the eight departments to show where savings of £25 million should be made. Other sections allow options for reductions in pay or increases in charges.

I clicked on the Council Support and Public Engagement section (spending £24.2 million.) When I clicked on more detail it broke it down into four subsections including Legal and Constitutional Services (£4.6 millon.) When I sliced £300,000 off that budget, by moving the slider, a "negative consequences" warning flashed up: "Reduce number and/or frequency of committee meetings."

Usually though the "negative consequences" offered are of rather greater concern. Inevitably the mechanism is rather simplistic, rather crude. It doesn't allow for the possibility of providing more for less. Can you cut spending without cutting services? I say yes. But computer says no.

So more useful is the detail. In their payments to suppliers Redbridge seem to be handing over £25,000 a month to Unison. What's that all about?


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