Government launches transparency web page

Online source provides data on spending, gifts and civil servants’ meetings

The Government has launched a single webpage on GOV.UK to list all the transparency data it publishes, in a further move designed to help people “hold public bodies to account”.

Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore announced the availability of the ‘transparency and accountability’ page last week, saying it was the next step in a process that began in 2010.

He said the move underlined a commitment to “delivering the best value for money, to cutting waste and inefficiency, and to ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way”.

The latest tranche of data immediately sparked a raft of stories, including that:

  • Theresa May's communications chief, Robbie Gibb, earns £15,000 more than his female predecessor, Katie Perrior, taking home £140,000 – and sparking accusations that the prime minister is not as committed to closing the gender pay gap as she claims.
  • No fewer than 25 special advisers at No 10 earn more than a cap of £72,000 once mooted by May.
  • Brexit Secretary David Davis and his officials spent almost £50,000 for 11 trips that involved RAF flights to European capitals. Labour demanded an investigation into whether Davis had breached the ministerial code, which requires them to be “cost effective”.
  • The prime minister declined to pay to keep four gifts, including a Mont Blanc pen from Angela Merkel, a low serial number polymer £10 note from Bank of England governor Mark Carney, an ornament from the Saudi foreign minister, and another pen. They will now be “held”, although what exactly happens to such rejected presents is a mystery.
  • Conservative MP Douglas Ross earned almost £1,970 for being assistant referee at Barcelona's Champion’s League match with Greece's Olympiakos – while missing a debate on the universal credit debacle.

“Such online transparency is crucial accountability for delivering the best value for money, to cutting waste and inefficiency, and to ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way,” Skidmore (pictured) said.

Chris Skidmore“Indeed, such data has allowed those working within central and local government to identify savings and stop excessive spending they did not otherwise know about.

“The sunlight of transparency also acts in itself as an important check and balance, and helps ensure the highest standards of public life amongst elected representatives and officials.”

Skidmore said the Cabinet Office had also published new guidelines that “clarify not only what core transparency data will be published by central government and how frequently; but also how we will ensure it is available in the most usable format and is easy to find”.

“This new landing page and publication guidance will help people find and navigate the information they need more easily and reaffirms our commitment to continue to drive forward the transparency agenda,” he added.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0