Recent developments in the transparency revolution

21 06 2010

First estimates, released by the government on Friday 18th June, have revealed that 640,000 people are employed by central government, and an additional 20,000 are contractual or temporary staff. Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office) commissioned the exercise to estimate employee numbers, but emphasised that the figures are not yet official statistics.

In a press release on the same day, Francis Maude stressed his ‘absolute commitment to pushing forward with the Government’s transparency agenda’. He pointed out that while the figures released so far are ‘raw and incomplete’, the government will eventually professionalise and better organise the release of data. He also reiterated that the government has ‘promised to keep pushing forward with this agenda and use every opportunity to let the public know what’s really happening in government, even when the information is not perfect’.

A further development in the past week is the appointment of Martha Lane Fox (co-founder of lastminute.com) as UK Digital Champion. Her role will be to ‘encourage as many people as possible to go online’, and improve the convenience and efficiency of the public sector by promoting online services. Ms Lane Fox stated that it was her ‘mission’ to reach out to the 10 million adults who have not yet used the internet.

David Cameron stated: ‘I am delighted that Martha Lane Fox will be our Digital Champion, encouraging more people to go online and access the information and services they need. Getting online can help people save money, find a job, access services in a way that works for them, and make connections with each other and with their community. It will also help us all to drive down the cost of delivering public services.’

In a further development, the transparency revolution has reached Holyrood, which has started to set a precedent for other UK administrations by publishing every piece of monthly expenditure in excess of £25,000. On Friday 18th June, the Scottish government released all spending over that limit for April. The finance spokesman, Derek Brownlee, commended the changes in the following statement:  ‘This is a transparency revolution. It will transform the relationship between government, public bodies and the taxpayer who foots the bill.’

Charlotte Jee             (@charlottejee)

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