Brits to ‘google their taxes’

Taxpayers would be able to look up on a website how their money has been spent under new proposals published by the Conservatives.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has unveiled details of a new bill which would require government to register all spending over £25,000 and for citizens to access it, in real time, on a public site.

However, a Treasury spokesman said the proposals could cost “tens of millions of pounds” and result in at least a million pages of information, compared to the 700 pages of estimates currently published.

“This government has made major changes to improve the transparency of the public spending system, from the one it inherited, and it is nonsense to suggest that people cannot find out where resources are being spent,” he said.

“With the introduction of new public sector agreements as part of departmental spending plans not only are we showing how much we spend but also, more importantly, what we are achieving with those resources.”

A similar website was recently set up in the United States, and Mr Osborne said that in an age where people could access information from a wide variety of sources, it was time British taxpayers knew where their money was going.

“It would open up spending by the Treasury to scrutiny. Taxpayers in their own home could find out where their pounds are being spent,” he said.

“In the best tradition of journalism, the public would be able to follow the money. I hope the government engages with the idea and accepts the legislation.”

He added: “But what is clear is that a public now used to accessing and searching a mass of information about their world will not tolerate governments who try to control or withhold information about how their money is spent.”

The proposed website, set up under the government spending transparency bill, would apparently cost no extra money as it would be managed within the Treasury’s existing budget.

By contrast, the Tories claim that in giving taxpayers a powerful search tool to hold government to account, it would save money by encouraging greater efficiency.

Spending on national security would be exempt from the bill, which the party intends to introduce in the House of Lords by Christmas, and matters of personal privacy would also be protected under the Data Protection Act.

However, Ms Osborne said controversial questions such as how much is spent on the new NHS IT system would be answered.