4 June 2010 | Lindsay Clark
The UK government has begun its plan for transparency in public spending with a new website detailing expenditure.
By November, all new items of central government spending over £25,000 will be published online. By January 2011 all new items of local government spending over £500 will be published on a council-by-council basis.
The Combined Online Information System, or COINS, will be of particular use to organisations with the relevant expertise to interpret it, rather than individuals, the government said. However, by giving access to the data, institutions and experts will be able to process and present the figures in a way that is more accessible to the public. Subsets of information from the COINS database will be made available in more accessible formats by August 2010.
COINS data will cover three areas:
Plans: authorised departmental spending (annual data)
Outturn: actual spending for years that have completed (annual data)
Forecast outturn: monthly in-year outturn (estimated actual data for months that have ended) and forecasts (for future months)
Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “For too long the previous government acted as if the public had no right to know where their hard-earned taxes were spent. Today we have lifted that veil of secrecy by releasing detailed spending figures dating back to 2008.
“This data is complex, but this is major step forward and shows we are delivering on our promise to make this government more open and transparent while ensuring we deliver value for money for the taxpayer. I hope people will take the opportunity to scrutinise carefully how their money is being spent – as I am doing every day in preparation for the Spending Review.
“We will not stop here - we plan to release more data in the coming months that will be easier for the general public to understand,” he said.
As SM reported in September last year, the Conservatives vowed to publish all government purchases over £25,000 if they came into power in a bid to make savings.
David Cameron said then that a Tory government would make total savings of £120 million a year by giving local authorities greater power over spending decisions and publishing every public sector purchase over £25,000.
“Look at MPs’ expenses,” Cameron said. “The simple act of publishing information online has brought about real change. It has transformed the culture of MPs' spending at a stroke and it is already starting to save money. Just imagine what will happen when we publish all government spending online.”
More detail on how to use the data is available from the Treasury website.