‘Slow coach’ Havering Council yet to open its books

HAVERING Council has been branded a “slow coach” authority by a government minister for dragging its heels over its financial openness.

Six months ago, Eric Pickles, local government secretary, decreed every local authority should publish all expenditure of over �500.

Councils have until the end of the month to comply, but Havering is one of 14 of London’s 32 authorities yet to make this information available online.

Mr Pickles said: “The slow coach councils only have a month to go before serious questions will be asked about what they’ve got to hide.

“The taxpayer has a right to see where their money is being spent, to point out waste and decide local priorities.

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“In 2011, I would like to see every council make their new year’s resolution to cut more waste and fully open their books up to public scrutiny.

“Openness is an essential part of a proper modern democracy.”

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A spokesman for London Councils, which represents the capital’s authorities, said all boroughs were “on course” to meet the deadline.

Cllr Roger Ramsey, Cabinet Member for Value, said: “By the end of this month we will be publishing all of our expenditure of over �500, including senior management salaries and council minutes.

“We are committed to being open and transparent and are working to the deadlines set by the Government.”

The other councils still to publish information are Greenwich, Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Croydon, Ealing, Haringey, Harrow, Hounslow and Newham, as well as The City of London.

Charlotte Linacre, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which scrutinises public spending, said: “It is a very positive and fair move that taxpayers will be able to see where their money is being spent at a local level.

“Whether ‘slow coach councils’ are reluctant to reveal poor spending decisions or are just slow in meeting their obligations to the taxpayer, either is worrying. However, this provides hope that big savings can be made once taxpayers can point out the cuts they would be happy to see.

“Transparency will soon be a statutory requirement so local politicians will have to be fully accountable to the taxpayers who fund their spending.”

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