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Tower Hamlets council's shopping list made public

PUBLISHED: 18:00 22 September 2010

THE council will soon throw open its bank books to the public, with the details of every penny spent just a mouse click away.

From January next year residents will be able to see every item bought by Tower Hamlets to the value of £500-and-over listed on the council website.

The decision follows a motion put forward by the Conservative Group at last Wednesday’s full council meeting, urging the Labour administration to lay bare its spending online.

Cllr Zara Davis, who proposed the motion, said: “This council spends a billion pounds of public money every year. All of this money comes from our residents and our taxpayers, so they have a right to know how it is spent.

“I am thrilled that we persuaded the council to open up its books to the public. Residents will be able to discover exactly what the council is buying with their money just by going to the Tower Hamlets website.

“This decision to publish all spending will also help to reduce waste. The people of this borough can become our armchair auditors, helping us to be more efficient and more effective.”

However, Conservative Cllr Neil King also criticised the administration for waiting four months to publish its accounts, demanding they be made public immediately.

He added: “With a new mayor of Tower Hamlets being elected next month it is the perfect opportunity to open up the council’s books and signal a clean break with the past. If Tower Hamlets has nothing to hide, there is no need for them to wait until January to publish their spending.”

But the administration has argued the wait is due to a Government timeline which will see a draft code of practice on council payments drawn up in September, followed by a confirmed code of practice in November.

Deputy leader of the council, Cllr Joshua Peck, said: “I think residents being able to see where their money is spent is a very good idea.”

As for the four month wait until accounts went online, Cllr Peck responded: “Getting this into a suitable format is actually quite difficult. The council is responsible for £1.3billion every year and it’s not just a case of uploading one document. We need to make it accessible and understable to the public, which takes time.”

So far, 51 councils have published their payments online, including Islington, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham and Richmond.

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