Insights

Local Government Spending – How much data is there?

Vincent Lao

Local Government Spending, what’s available?

Local Government Spending or ‘Spend data’ is freely available on English Local Authorities websites under the OGL Open Data licence.

The 2015 Transparency Code, encourages every Local Authority in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not covered) to publish the details of their expenditure, more commonly known as Local Government Spending Data. This is designed to encourage local transparency allowing citizens to hold their elected officials to account with factual information.

At the very least each Local Authority should publish details on all spend over £250, however, most publish everything regardless of value.

Each Local Authority in England (353) is responsible for publishing their own data. Due to the balkanised nature of the publication method, a lot of work is required to get the data into a single queriable dataset. The biggest obstacles being:

  • there are no standard publication dates
  • local authorities use various file formats and different column heading names
  • the data isn’t always that easy to find
  • each local authority will use their own descriptions of the spend

It’s also worth noting that there are different types of Local Authority and each has a different level of responsibility (see How Local Councils are Organised and Funded ) so the quantity of data published by each will vary.

We have overcome the issues raised above and applied some ‘Artifical Intelligence’ to match the cleansed data to a standard categorisation provided by the Local Government Association (LGA) Services and Functions schema. The results aren’t perfect but it allows us to offer a much deeper insight into how much Local Government Spending there is and where it’s generally being spent.

How much information is currently available?

Use the dashboard below to explore the data and see how your local authority compares to others. Please note a lot of local government spending priorities are set by national government as part of their Statutory Duties to provide Social Care, Education and Housing Services.

To go full screen, click the box in bottom right of the dashboard

Please note that some Local Authorities are better at releasing data than others, we continually chase offenders for the missing datasets to offer as complete a picture as possible. We currently have 97.3% of the expected data.

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