Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Monday, 17 January 2011

Pickles accused of 'posturing' on council spending

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has been accused of "pointless posturing" over his demand that councils publish details of all spending on goods and services of more than £500.

At Commons question time on 17 January 2011, Labour's Helen Goodman told Mr Pickles that his call on town halls to throw their books open to public scrutiny was an "absurd regulation" that was creating extra costs.

The MP for Bishop Auckland claimed her local county council would have to appoint two extra members of staff just to cope with the new policy.

Last year Mr Pickles called on English local authorities to start publishing itemised spending online as part of a transparency drive.

But Ms Goodman said: "Don't you realise this is an absurd regulation? Durham County Council have calculated that it will take two full-time officers to fulfil this requirement.

"At the same time that you are cutting £100m from the budget. What is the point of this pointless posturing?

Mr Pickles replied: "I had difficulty in hearing you over all the gasps of disbelief. I can only imagine that Durham is using an abacus for calculation. Only if Durham is providing its information on vellum is that likely to be [the case].

"Frankly, in most councils, indeed in my department, it happens automatically, if you just have a simple spreadsheet it is very easy to do."

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