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All council spending should be published - even when undertaken by "arms length" boards

Most council housing is managed not directly by councils themselves but by "arms length management organisations." This means that the transparency requirement for their spending to be published does not apply - even though councils have to publish their own spending on items over £500. This is an anomaly as ALMOs are wholly owned by local authorities and to say their spending is not local authority spending is sophistry. At least they are covered under Freedom of Information rules.

Given that housing associations are to be asked to publish their spending all the more reason for ALMOs to do so. Housing association can, at least, argue that they are not part of the public sector. The case for ALMOs to open their books is, in fact, even greater than for Council's direct spending. ALMOs are even more spendthrift as they don't have to bother about democratic accountability - it is much easier for them to brush aside "interference" from councillors.

From the point of view of a tenant or leaseholder it is scarcely less frustrating for money to be wasted by an ALMO than directly by the Council housing department.

Anyway it looks as though the Transparency Code will be extended. The blogger Mr Mustard has the scoop. In a letter, the DCLG has told him:

Thank you for drawing to our attention and sharing your concerns about the potential lack of transparency created when some councils outsource services or move assets to ALMOs who, in turn, might not be required to publish their spending data. We are aware of the issues and officials will be considering these in the round when reviewing the Code.

The Government's view is that it is important to make more data publicly and readily available to the citizen to enable them to challenge public authorities about how they are using taxpayers’ money, so citizens are better placed to raise issues and concerns.

We have noted your concerns and you will have the opportunity to feed in further views during the next phase of the Code review process.


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