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Kent County Council's 'transparency revolution'

Kent County Council logo
Kent County Council logo

by political editor Paul Francis

Details of how millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is spent - including the pay and perks of senior officers - are to go online.

KentOnline can reveal the move is part of what is being hailed as a transparency revolution at County Hall.

Kent County Council will embark on a radical programme of opening its books to public inspection under a series of measures it believes will improve trust and understanding among residents.

Many of the proposals are in line with government moves to compel councils to be much more open about how they spend money.

County councillors are expected to back the ideas at a meeting on Monday.

Under its Transparency Programme, the council, which spends more than £2bn each year, is to publish a monthly list of all transactions of more than £500.

And in a major departure, the council is to disclose the details of the pay and perks of all its top officers, along with any hospitality they have received and declarations of interest.

The authority has previously refused to identify the specific remuneration of its senior officers but did so for the first time this year under new audit regulations requiring their disclosure.

The reforms and moves to much greater openness about spending are being led by KCC's new group managing director Katherine Kerswell.

In a cabinet report setting out the principles of the scheme, the council says: "KCC views transparency as a fundamental principle of how we do business.

"Staff throughout KCC must understand that the public has a right to know how taxpayers' money is spent and how effectively it is used."

It says that the programme offers "a major opportunity for KCC to further improve our relationship with Kent residents through a more informed conversation".

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

Cllr Roger Gough (Con) KCC cabinet member for corporate services, said: "It is going to go much further than we have in the past and we hope it will mean a much more direct relationship with the citizen and encourage them to get involved in what we do.

"It is a culture shift but there has been a move in that direction for some time."

He acknowledged that the council would need to consider carefully how it presented some of the details.

"People may struggle to understand if we publish just raw data and there may be cases where we have to give context."

Cllr Trudy Dean, opposition Liberal Democrat leader, said: "I am very encouraged by this. I hope it reflects a change in KCC's mindset."

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