Each local authority has a database to store its finances. OK, sometimes it is more complex than that; sometimes authorities share a database and there is often sharing of data between databases. But for the purposes of this blog post, it is fair to say authorities store their finances in a database. I believe that this database has the most detailed data that exists about the authority’s accounts.
I’ve been plugging away to getting a local authority to publish their finances database, with reasonable redactions of personal details and individual payment details, of course. But so far the resistance to such a publication is high — as you would probably expect — mostly because of the work involved. But I’m asking for this information because authorities will be required to publish spending above £500 by January 2011, so if they are going to publish over £500 then why not go the whole way and do it all? Optimistic, hey?
As things aren’t moving so fast with that line of enquiry, I’ve been looking into all the different requirements for Local Authorities to report their finances. The conclusion is that there is a lot of reporting going on, and I haven’t found out about what CIPFA require or reached a point where I know all the requirements clearly. But here’s what I’ve found out so far:
The acronyms stand for:
- L-Pack : The details of this are on Communities and Local Government website. This pack is to be completed as part of the Whole of Government Accounts exercise.
- RA : Is the Revenue Account budget form. This Communities and Local Government page has the excel spreadsheet for the authority to complete.
- RG : Is the Revenue Grants. It is part of the general revenue account and the guidelines (PDF) are on the Communities and Local Government page.
- BID : Is the Business Improvement District Revenue Account (BIDRA) for Budgets. It is part of the general revenue account and the guidelines (PDF) are on the Communities and Local Government page.
- RS : Is the Revenue Summary which is used in General Fund Services Revenue Account. The guidelines (PDF) are on the Communities and Local Government page.
- SAR : Stands for Subjective Analysis Return. The guidelines (PDF) are on the Communities and Local Government page.
- BIDO : Is the Business Improvement District Outturn. The guidelines (PDF) are on the Communities and Local Government page.
- RO: Is the Revenue Outturn. The excel spreadsheet that the authority is to complete is on the Communities and Local Government page.
As you can see, local authority finances are quite something, and there’s a fair bit of work to be done to figure out what it all means in a way your average man on the street will appreciate. But I hope it is a start for people skilled in communicating complex ideas in a meaningful way, to investigate more, and maybe to ask for the raw data from these reports before it is aggregated and published.