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Strengthening Local Government Transparency

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published a Consultation Paper to consider updating the Local Government Transparency Code 2015. This follows on from The last Budget speech by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and, in particular, the Treasury Red Book which is published at the same time.  

Under the Heading 'Competitive Markets' the following paragraph appeared in the Book:

  • The Government will consult on new rules requiring local authorities to be transparent about the cost of the in-house services they provide and whether there could be savings from using competitive external providers.

In addition to updating the provisions of the Code the DCLG is considering new requirements about information on parking charges and enforcement.  It is also proposing to include the publishing of information about local authorities' dealings with small and medium-sized companies.There are three areas of particular interest to the enforcement world.

Dealing firstly with 'Procurement', the intention is to increase the standardisation and transparency of procurement and contract data by publishing it from different local authorities but in a fixed format at a central source with the intention of enhancing comparability.

The second area of interest comes under the heading 'Contracts'. The paper proposes that local authorities should go through due process when making decisions about the provision of high-quality, vales-for-money services and that where decisions are made to deploy in-house services, the costs and benefits of such services should be documented and made available.  The paper reads as follows:

  • Given the Code already obliges local authorities to provide details of contracts with external providers, this levels the playing field where transparency is concerned.  A local authority should be able to...justify to its residents why its services are being provided in-house rather than a private company.

There is no doubt that this provision could have consequences for local authority in-house enforcement teams.

The third area or interest concerns 'Parking'.  The paper proposes the expansion of publishing data under this heading "...to include greater detail about parking charges as well as about the enforcement of parking restrictions by the local authority".

CIVEA responded to the paper expressing agreement with the proposals under the 'Procurement' heading, believing that they would help to improve consistency, boost transparency of public sector procurement and help local authorities to replicate best practice from other areas.

With regard to the 'Contract' provisions, CIVEA supported the proposals regarding the deployment of in-house services. Failure to make this information public raises inevitable questions about the cost effectiveness and quality of the service provided as well as preventing local authorities from being held to account.

Finally, CIVEA expressed support for the plans included under the 'Parking' heading which should also help to ensure greater clarity and transparency.

The consultation period closed on 8th July and we now await the response from the DCLG.