About Our Transparency System
Our Transparency system takes real Council information and presents it in an easily readable format for all residents in order to prevent them having any difficulties in discovering exactly what it is their elected representatives do in their name. Lack of transparency in Sunderland Council has been an area of longstanding concern and it is important that proper scrutiny and democratic accountability is applied to all Councillors. With an excessive three Councillors per ward, this allows representatives to bounce blame off each other for their mistakes rather than take real responsibility for their actions.
The system was established following emails by Sunderland For Transparency Director General Christopher Marshall to then leader of the Council Graeme Miller during the Summer of 2018, who avoided replying confirming only through a Council Officer the Council did not store the attendance and voting records of Councillors and it did not intend to do so.
Following a large deal of public exposure over this issue, the Council finally backed down to pressure and established a very primitive method of storing a few of the Councillor attendance records and displaying this information next to the details of a meeting. This half-baked attempt, however, was done for political reasons and not out of due process and service to the people of Sunderland, to whom elected the Councillors to the positions they are now in.
This followed concerns that the Council's own website was set up in a way which made it very difficult for residents to find any constructive information regarding their elected Councillors. Along with constant crashes, persistent errors and slow loading of what information was there, it was therefore decided that in order to apply proper democratic scrutiny to Councillors a new system should be set up entirely independent of the Council.
Our system uses the information hidden away from view by the Council and compiles real time statistics on the activity by Councillors including their expenses, voting records, election history and attendance records. Official legal requirements for the Council to hold & publish information relating to Councillors was only introduced and took effect from 2005, meaning that it is virtually impossible for our system to go back any further as the Council simply does not hold the information. Information such as the minutes of meetings, to which exist the only known attendance records of Councillors, must only be published by the Council within the last six year period. Information such as voting records are only stored in very specific circumstances at all, and only in the minutes of Full Council meetings. This provides the potential for the Council to remove minutes from the past and residents to lose information about their representatives forever.
Due to the nature in which the Council have stored information, namely in nothing more than the minutes of meetings, some of which are innacurate and some not even stored at all, it has been almost impossible to locate every single piece of information for us to use. However, to the best of our knowledge this is both an accurate and reliable data reconstruction based on all the information available in the public domain. It is the only such system in the entire country relating to accountability in local Government and provides a much needed, fresh alternative for residents to find information.
As a result of the way the Council has stored information, the gaps in information, missing information and factually incorrect information, all information which is used in our system must be manually entered by us to ensure its accuracy. Because of this fact, information on the system runs approximately six to eight weeks behind real-time and this is largely due to the delay in the Council publishing minutes of meetings.
Information and statistics available on this system may be used and distributed without prior permission in any format providing the source is quoted as Sunderland For Transparency and contains a link back to this website, however we reserve the right to request that published information be withdrawn at any time. For more information on licensing, copyright or distribution please see our terms and conditions of use.