The big annual breakdowns of the council's budget that come through the door always seem pretty meaningless – too high level and corporate. So it's good to see that earlier this year the council has quietly begun to publish a detailed monthly breakdown of expenditure items over £500. The long list of items allows us to see that in April and May excellent local youth charity Sparkplug received over £20,000 from the council and Crumbles adventure playground over £13,000. Bringing things down to a human, local level helps make things more comprehensible, even if the list is longer.
The spending breakdown also shows the huge sums being spent on IT in general and IT consultants. Also this site is big campaigner for cleaner streets but the £28,000 spent with the Tidy Britain Group (in three transactions) could use some explanation. The council asks for an FOI request for each item of expenditure – this seems wrong – the onus should be on the council to provide this information up front in summary form.
One criticism of the spending brekadown though is that it is in a pdf form – making it impossible easily to rank or makes charts of the expenditure. I should declare an interest as i am on a panel for the government on making better use of local data. The council seem to be preapring to publish data as a spreadsheet which will make life easier.
UPDATE: I am grateful to Roger Dunlop at the Council for providing data for April and May 2010 in spreadsheet form
FURTHER UPDATE: i published the spreadsheets at lunchtime today and by teatime Chris Taggart over at Openly Local had produced this great dashboard for Islington's spend data from these two months. Great stuff Chris.