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Government Spending and the 2015 Transparency Code

Samuel Tan

Government Spending, Transparency Regulations for Local Authorities in England

Under the 2015 Transparency Code, Government Spending by Local Authorities in England is published under the Open Government Licence. The data released details all expenditure or public spend data that exceeds £250, however most publish everything regardless of value. They also have to publish any transactions made with a Government Procurement Card (GPC). At the very least, they’re required to publish this data on a quarterly basis but again many publish monthly.

Additionally, the first publication date must not be later than 31 December 2014, although Local Authorities starting making their expenditure invoices public back in 2010. Please note, Local Authorities also need to list all contracts with a value over £10,000 on the central Government Contracts website as part of an open tendering process. This data is also made available, for more information read Government Contracts, Tenders and Winners

Public Invoice Payments

The Transparency Code of 2015 makes it mandatory for Local Authorities to publish qualifying spend data details on a quarterly basis, although they are free to publish this spend data more frequently if they wish. The £200 threshold is only a minimum requirement, and there is absolutely nothing stopping Local Authorities from publishing all of the spend data they want to, and most bodies do.

Types of expenditure they publish includes:

  • Credit notes totalling over £250
  • Expense payments
  • Grant in aid
  • Grant payments
  • Grants to third-party providers
  • Individual invoices
  • Any transactions over £250
  • Payments for goods and services
  • Rent and policy-related lending
  • Transactions with other public bodies

Some government spending will need to be excluded to protect individuals and commercially sensitive contracts. These include:

  • Compensation payments to individuals
  • Financing and investment expenditure
  • Payments the Agency made to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) relating to value-added tax (VAT), National Insurance Contributions (NIC), pay as you earn (PAYE) or pensions
  • Salary payments to staff (the Code covers this separately)
  • Transactions relating to the financing, income or underwriting of debt
  • Spend Data Covering Transactions of a Government Procurement Card (GPC)

In addition to covering the general public invoice expenditure, the Code also makes it mandatory for Local Authorities to publish all of the spending they do on Government Procurement Cards (GPC). In the previous section, we discussed spend data, and the same publication regulations that applied to spend data also apply to Government Procurement Card transactions. The only exception is that the Code makes it mandatory to publish all GPC payments, and this includes those that are less than £250 in value.

Government Procurement Cards refer to any cards that were issued to Local Authorities under a procurement framework that the Crown Commercial Service owns. The Government uses GPCs as a type of payment card. It’s important to note that this isn’t a credit card, and GPCs function as a controlled and secured method of paying for and purchasing low-value services or goods. As such, Local Authorities generally use it alongside other processes and purchasing tools.

What Type of Government Spending Data is Published

The most commonplace type of data published includes:

ExampleNotes
Payments to public sector bodies and government bodiesIt's mandatory to include every transaction in the government or public sector
Payments to third-party or government service providersIt's mandatory to include all transactions of this type
Payments made to sole tradersBusiness expense rather than a personal expense
Payments for secondeesA secondee is a person who receives a temporary transfer of employment. You should include bill pay expenditure and payments for services instead of personal. If the pay to the secondee is transparent, you can redact it.
Food and travel claims as a monthly cumulative costIncluded in a single invoice or as a single line if you process it using a Government Procurement Card
Pension contributions (service charge element)Include who received the contribution and the total
Ex-Gratia payments that exceed a contract priceProvide the full payment cost
Credit notesIncluded to ensure that you've recorded all transaction payments correctly
Policy lending (excluding funds management or individuals)If a Local Authority lends money to another organisation, it's regarded as spend data
GiftsExplicitly covered under the Freedom of Information Act, but should get published
Business rates and rentStandard expenditure costs

 

What Type of Government Spending Data may be Excluded or Redacted

The following table outlines the transactions that may be redacted or excluded as covered under the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, key redactions will relate to data that is directly protected under the Data Protection Act. This typically relates to vulnerable persons or children. They include:

ExampleNotes
Staff salary payments - including bonuses except payments published under the senior salary schemeExcluded as it is personal information. Protected under the Data Protection Act
Expense payments to your staffRedacted where expense payments go to a staff member who has an annual salary that falls below 150,000
Pension contributions and National Insurance Contributions excluding service charges and that were published under the senior salary schemeExcluded as it is personal information. Protected under the Data Protection Act
Pension contributions and National Insurance Contributions excluding service charges and that were published under the senior salary schemeExcluded as it is personal information. Protected under the Data Protection Act
Severance payments excluding ones made under the senior salary schemeExcluded as it is personal information. Protected under the Data Protection Act.
Payments to individuals regarding the legal process including settlements, compensation, and fraud paymentsExcluded as it is personal information. Protected under the Data Protection Act.
Competition prizes as a normal part of operationsExcluded as it is personal information. Protected under the Data Protection Act.
Settlements made with companies in response to arbitration that has confidentiality conditionsRedacted as being commercial-in-confidence that is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act
Potential betrayal regarding commercial confidence, or prejudice to a legitimate commercial interestRedacted
Transactions relating to debt underwriting, or financing debt underwritingExcluded because it falls outside the common definition of expenditure

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