Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Web to watch government spending

Screengrab of spending graph, Open Knowledge Foundation
The site breaks spending down into its constituent categories

Online tools can now help citizens curious about what their taxes are being spent on.

The Where Does My Money Go website has combined spending figures with visualisation tools to show how the cash is divided.

The data can be explored through a series of maps, timelines and graphs.

Created by the Open Knowledge Foundation, it brings together figures since 2003 that are currently held by many official departments and agencies.

"We know that transparency changes individual and institutional behaviour and this new tool will have a big impact on the way the public sector is held to account by UK citizens," said Labour MP Tom Watson in a statement.

While the US has legislation that requires government departments and agencies to put spending figures in one place, the UK has no such laws.

As a result, said the Open Knowledge Foundation, "spending figures often require background knowledge to interpret and can be hard put into context".

The initial site has been put together with figures from HM Treasury but, said the Foundation, it was working to include numbers from many more sources to make it more comprehensive. Eventually visitors will be able to drill down to find out spending at local levels.

By crunching the numbers, the Foundation discovered some interesting facts.

For instance, it said total public spending was now at a level last seen during the recession of 1992.

It also noticed a big rise in environmental spending since 2006 in the northwest of England, which it found was down to increases in the costs of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. This spending has risen by up to £1bn per year.

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