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Shropshire Council leading the way in drive to open up finances to the public

Barrow-keith-new Cllr Keith Barrow, the leader of Shropshire County Council, on how his council is embracing transparency

In Shropshire we are committed to being open and transparent about our use of public money. Since last October we have published every payment made to individuals and companies over £500. We have now published new information that adds to the details already made available.

The data is published at in a variety of formats, designed to allow people to analyse and share the statistics as freely as possible. The aim is to encourage more public scrutiny of council spending.

What can you expect to find that was not available before? Well, there are lists of everything bought using council purchasing cards. These are similar to credit cards, but save money by avoiding the administration coats of dealing with invoices, as well as giving payment to the supplier much more quickly. I believe that Shropshire Council is one of the few councils to publish every single payment made on these cards – many other councils and the Government only publish transactions over £500.

In addition, a copy of the council’s contract register is published monthly and this is now supplemented with copies of contract documentation relating to contracts over £50,000 which have been tendered and awarded, such as two contracts for water management and lift maintenance which have just been awarded.

We are now publishing a huge amount of financial information every month, including senior staff salaries and expenses as we believe it’s important that councils are as open as possible about what they spend people’s hard earned council tax on. I hope people take the time to look through the statistics and judge for themselves whether we are making efficient use of our resources.

Can we do more? Of course we can. We don’t own information and the public have the absolute right to access and to hold us to account if we get it wrong. At present we are working towards making all our data open source.

Nottingham Council should be ashamed. Refusing to be open about its spending because "it doesn't improve public understanding of what their council is spending money on" is incredible patronising to the people of Nottingham. I know that the population of Shropshire will have no difficulty in understanding what
we spend their money on and have the absolute right to know.


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