The Conservative Government are keen that Local Authorities start putting financial information from their budgets online. One London Borough has already obliged (well before the January 2011 deadline) and placed the details of over 2000 transactions over the value of £500 from the month of August onto their website.
As an endlessly curious sort I had a quick look and have copied across three rows of the accounts below.
|40||11/08/2010||HAYS EXECUTIVE||426274.1||Agency Hays Contract A/c||Payments X|
|41||26/08/2010||HAYS EXECUTIVE||411774.8||Agency Hays Contract A/c||Payments X|
|42||03/08/2010||HAYS EXECUTIVE||402810.47||Agency Hays Contract A/c||Payments X|
The three rows I chose were all to do with Hays Executive which I am fairly sure is a recruitment company. What drew my eye was the fact that three times over the month the authority in question were spending over £400,000 with the recruitment company; presumably, given the consistency of the payment, for the services of temporary and bank staff.
Over a year that would work out at nearly £40 £15 million (thank you Matt!) spent on temporary staff; a figure I found to be quite large.
This leads me to two questions:
1) What should I do with my concerns. If this was my authority I’d doubtless be asked to benchmark the data against other authorities and then establish whether it was a problem worth pursuing. But, it’s not and I don’t even live there (thank you Google news). The problem is that I don’t know if the figures are a big deal, nor whether they are for what I think they are for, nor whether there is any reason to get upset about them.
Is this not the problem for the army of so-called ‘armchair auditors’ (you and I) who are meant to be checking up on these data releases and holding local councils to account? Without context the whole thing is very tricky.
2) I have access to this blog so have taken the opportunity to share these figures here in the hope others will comment. This applies both to the data I have highlighted but other data releases coming from your local authorities or others in your area. Please do get in touch flagging up other inconsistencies or data you might highlight. Just in case you’ve forgotten we’re available at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t see the armchair auditing thing catching on but at the very least it might provide an interesting vignette or two into life before the crunch.