Thursday, 9 April 2009

“Control freak” Ministers water down new openness laws – Giles McNeill

Labour Government censors breakdown of government spending in Lincolnshire

Giles McNeill, Deputy Regional Chairman - East Midlands Conservative Future, today expressed disappointment at the Labour Government’s decision to water down new laws which would tell people how much taxpayers’ money is spent in Lincolnshire, across the East Midlands, and in every other part of the country.

A new law, called the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, and introduced by Conservatives, was passed by Parliament with cross-community support from local and national organisations. It could turn politics upside down - by giving local people the power to decide how their cash is spent in their area.

For the first time in British political history, the Government will publish a regular breakdown of the amount of public money spent in each community, and explain how much of that spending is controlled by local people and how much by Whitehall.

More and more taxpayers’ money is being spent by unelected quangos. In Gordon Brown’s first year in office, spending on so-called “executive non-departmental public bodies” rose by 16 per cent. The Taxpayers’ Alliance, has estimated that £64 billion a year is now spent by unelected quangos – equivalent to £2,550 for every household in Lincolnshire. So the need for proper transparency in public spending is urgent.

But in a consultation paper recently issued by the Government, the plans for reports on local spending under the new Act have been severely watered down. Only spending information by councils and NHS Primary Care Trusts will be published – and this is already in the public domain.

Conservatives are pledging to put this right and will:
• Use the Sustainable Community Act to publish detailed information on local spending by central and local government bodies, and devolve more funding down to local communities.
• Require Lincolnshire County Council and Whitehall bodies to publish online detailed figures on how they spend our money, so the press and public can scrutiny waste and inefficiency properly.

Giles said:
“It is completely unacceptable that control freak Ministers should try to water down these ground-breaking new openness laws. Labour are obsessed with trying to control everything from Whitehall. It speaks volumes that they want to stop local people finding out which areas gets a raw deal from the Government.

“The Sustainable Communities Act can give local communities a far greater say on how their money is spent. In this way, we can tackle ‘Ghost Town Britain’ and the ongoing loss of local shops, services and facilities. Only Conservatives will open up the books and give power and funding so local people can adopt local solutions.”

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