How our taxes are spent

Citizen participation is not just about handing over our taxes for politicians’ pet projects. It means that we get a say on how and why policies are made. In a democracy it also means we have a right to see how our taxes are spent. I came across a site last month by the American campaign group OMB Watch that campaigns for taxpayer’s rights – http://www.fedspending.org – and ever since, I’ve been pushing around an idea to build something similar in the UK.

The site allows taxpayers to see more clearly how their money is spent by the government. I thought we ought to have something similar in the UK. It seems that we just might.

Last week, I talked to shadow Chancellor George Osborne’s office and today they have announced plans for legislation to bring transparency into state spending by requiring the Treasury to set up and run a special website showing where the Government is allocating resources collected in tax.

The proposal aims to publish on a website all spending above £25,000, though there are caveats for national security or personal privacy. I’m not sure I’m buying the line of personal privacy where public money is concerned. If you’re spending the public’s money then it is to the public that you must account. Already, the DPA is the favoured ruse for avoiding public accountability (witness MPs’ reliance on the law for their continued refusal to disclose their detailed expense claims).

The Conservatives say they will introduce a Government Spending Transparency Bill into Parliament before Christmas, and if approved the measure could become law by Easter. ‘Your Right to Know’ certainly welcomes this proposal. It still does not match the transparency of line-item budgets that are available to citizens in the US, but it is certainly an improvement on the wasteful secrecy that we have currently.

Read more:
Tories want spending put online

4 Responses to “How our taxes are spent”

  1. Nick Evans says:

    Personal privacy certainly has a place. It’s one thing to know that a particular agency is spending £250,000 on the salaries of 10 officials. It’s another thing to know what each of those 10 individuals brings home. Provided that the public knows the former, does it really need to know the latter?

    It’s also interesting to see the Tories come around to Freedom of Informatio. I wonder if they’d be so keen if they get back in power?

  2. ianp says:

    Do we have an update on this item, was the Bill introduced before Christmas as promised.?

  3. heather says:

    I haven’t heard anything more but will check and see if this actually came to pass.

  4. heather says:

    The Bill is now called the Government Spending (Website) Bill and is currently going through the House of Lords. I’ve written more about it at http://www.yrtk.org/2007/436/
    The Bill’s sponsor Baroness Noakes also outlined the bill’s purpose in the House of Lords last Friday:
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2007-01-26a.1393.1&s=%22Information++Commissioner%22#g1393.2

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