Council to be the first to publish payments information

Tuesday April 2nd 2019

Midlothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Midlothian Council could become the first council in Scotland to publish details of payments it makes which are more than £500.

The council is considering a way to make details of payments public while protecting personal information of its staff and individuals.

Local authorities in England are required to publish their expenditure under the Local Government Transparency Code 2015, however there is no legislation in Scotland.

A report to councillors said that publishing the details would give local people the information they need to ask questions of how the council is managing the services they provide.

However, it cautioned against releasing personal details urging them to exempt payments to staff, sensitive payments such as those made to individual foster carers and payments which would reveal individual internal charges within the council.

Provost Peter Smail asked officers if approving the publication would make Midlothian the first Scottish council to do it.

He was told: “To our knowledge, yes”.

Councillor Andrew Hardie raised concerns that some of the proposed exempted information regarded payments to contractors and sole traders.

He said: “I am perfectly happy that payments to salaried staff should not be included. I think that is perfectly reasonable and neither should payments to individuals such as foster carers.

“But I think where someone is working as a contractor or a self-employed individual or are a sole trader I think it is entirely appropriate for that information to be provided.”

He pointed out that under Freedom of Information requests information on contractors was already provided.

The council’s legal adviser Alan Turpie warned that because there is no statutory duty in Scotland to publish the information each payment would have to be considered on a case by case basis to ensure it did not breach the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was brought in last year.

A further report on the proposals will be brought before councillors in June.

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