Councillors set to go public with expenses

Shaun LowthorpeDetails of all city councillor expenses in Norwich are due to go online today as the race to be seen as the region's most transparent local authority heats up.Shaun Lowthorpe

Details of all city councillor expenses in Norwich are due to go online today as the race to be seen as the region's most transparent local authority heats up.

Council chiefs stung by the public anger in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal are now brining forward plans to let residents look at expenses claims.

But currently there is a patchwork approach to transparency with no consistency about what councils will publish online and momentum is building for all authorities to put as much in the public domain as possible.

Norwich City Council has tried to steal a march on other local authorities by pressing ahead with its plans to go online today. Details will include tables showing basic and special responsibility allowance payments, carers cost, travel and food.

That is no different to what councils are currently required to publish once a year - and another Norfolk authority Broadland started showing those details on its website last month, and is reviewing whether to publish the register of members' interests.

But City Hall will also include a table showing travel payments for councillors sent on official business in addition to when they have paid for expenses themselves and claimed them back. The council hopes to place online the register of members' interests by the end of the week.

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Waveney district council began publishing its register of members' interests for each of its councillors online about six weeks ago, but other councils maintain a hardcopy at their offices for the public to inspect.

Norfolk County Council is set to publish expenses details online from Friday, with the first submitted claims forms due to appear next month.

And unlike the city it will include the monthly claims forms submitted by each of its 84 councillors from mid July. And uniquely, details of senior officers' allowances and expenses including chief executive David White will also be published - but the authority is to wait until October before deciding whether to publish the register of members' interests.

Steve Morphew, leader of the city council, said: 'No political party has been left untouched by the MPs expenses revelations. It's only natural that members of the public will want to know what is happening on a local level in terms of allowances and expenses paid to councillors.

'We have always tried to be open at the city council by making councillors' allowances and register of interests publicly available. But now we're taking that one step further by making all the information available on our website as we're keen to show taxpayers we have no skeletons in our cupboards.'

A Breckland council spokeswoman said most allowances were published annually and were fixed, while no decision had been made to publish ad hoc expenses such as rail fares.

But the authority would be interested in working with the county council to put the information in one place and also saw 'no difficulties' in putting the register of members' interests online.

'No decision has been reached however we see no difficulties to include receipts for expenses as this forms part of the reimbursement procedure that officers and elected members follow,' she said.

In South Norfolk the council is also reviewing what information will be published online.

Council leader John Fuller said no decisions had been made on exactly what would be published on line and the council's standards and ethics committee was looking at the data protection issues : 'This information has always been available to the public on request, and we are considering what we would need to do to make it more widely available via the internet, including the costs of that. It has to be done efficiently, effectively and in a businesslike way.'