Parliament challenged to open up its finances

By agency reporter
October 28, 2009

Parliament will be given a chance to vote to open up the finances of quangos and national government on Wednesday 28 October 2009, when it debates strengthening the government's Local Spending Reports.

Each year, unelected bodies spend £64 billion of public money, equivalent to around £2,550 for every household in the UK. Government departments also spend millions of pounds locally. Unlike the money spent by local councils however, public accounts of how this money is spent are not published.

The government promised to produce local spending reports and introduced a legal requirement to do so in the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. However, when these reports were published in April 2009, they contained little additional information that was not already publicly available.

Some 256 MPs have now signed Early Day Motion 1064 calling for local spending reports to include the spending of all public agencies. On Wednesday, the Conservative Party has tabled a similarly worded motion.

With the Liberal Democrats expected to support this motion if the 91 Labour MPs who have signed the EDM also act in support, it will be carried and the government will be forced to take action.

In a joint statement, cross-party Sustainable Communities Act champions David Drew, Julia Goldsworthy and Nick Hurd have urged their parliamentary colleagues to support the motion.

They say: "Parliament has learned from bitter experience this year the importance of openness for good governance. The best insurance policy we have against waste and unaccountability is exposing government finances to the sunshine of public scrutiny.

"That was the fundamental principle which all parties signed up to in 2007. The Sustainable Communities Act was intended to arm both the public and politicians with the information they need to better hold to account quangos and the centralised state. This became doubly important as the economy began to slide into recession.

"Regrettably this promise has not been fulfilled. The Local Spending Reports published in April this year told us little more than what we already knew. This was not what Parliament agreed or was promised by the executive.

"Parliament must take a stand on this and assert its authority. For this reason we are urging our parliamentary colleagues to support the motion on Local Spending Reports this Wednesday."

Commenting on today's vote, Unlock Democracy Campaigns Director Ron Bailey said: "Proper local spending reports will revolutionise how we scrutinise the spending of quangos and central government. I hope MPs will see beyond petty party concerns and vote to ensure the government keeps its promise."

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