Transparency: Town halls still shy of scrutiny

More than half of town halls have yet to comply with Government demands to throw open their books to public scrutiny.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles called on councils six months ago to start publishing itemised spending online from September as part of the coalition's transparency drive.

But still only 144 out of 354 English local authorities have released the information. The rest have until the end of January to meet the Government's deadline.

The national situation reflects the picture in this region, as revealed by the Yorkshire Post earlier this week.

A code of practice incorporating the requirements on transparency about spending is to be published shortly.

Officials said it could be made binding, in which case residents would be able to take enforcement action against authorities which refused to comply.

Councils are being asked to publish details of expenditure on all goods and services – from car hire to consultancy fees – of more than 500.

Also to be published online are senior salaries, councillors' expenses, minutes of meetings and data on service provision like rubbish and recycling rates.

Mr Pickles criticised the "slowcoach" councils which had not yet published the information.

"In 2011 I would like to see every council make their New Year's resolution to cut more waste and fully open their books up to public scrutiny," he said.