In a move somewhat out of kilter with efforts to portray his department as the vanguard of openness in government, “transparency champion” Eric Pickles has attempted to block councils releasing data on spending.
In June 2010, Pickles called for councils to publish details of all spending over £500 in full and online, saying:
“Getting council business out in the open will revolutionise local government. The public should be able to see where their money goes and what it delivers.”
So one might question why a local government spending surveys carried out by the BBC and Local Government Chronicle (LGC) were blocked by the government. Councils were told to refuse requests for data on the spurious basis that it was intended for future publication by the Office for National Statistics.
“The BBC has seen a copy of an e-mail circulated to councils by DCLG’s Revenue Statistics Branch, which told councils to refuse the LGC’s information request in rather fierce terms.”
Has Pickles ushered in an era of transparency or an era of hypocrisy?