The coalition Government talk about we are all in this together when it comes to dealing with the recession. How sure can we be that Stoke-on-Trent is having equal share of the pain? Plus how can we be sure that what little money Stoke receives to provide public services is used appropriately.
Take the two maps for example:
The red areas in this map indicate the highest levels of deprivation in the city.
While this map shows areas of multiple indices of deprivation score which is a combination of health and social factors with the big purple spots indicating a score of 57% which is very worrying compared to other parts of the country which score as low as a few percent. Stoke-on-Trent are around the 12th place in the league table of having the highest percentage of disabled people (23%) in the country.
Ok it seems Stoke is not very healthy, well good health is more than just eating healthily and exercising, it’s where you live, the environment you live in, household income, what job you do etc. It’s important to remember that you pay your taxes with a huge slice paying for public sector services which in turn is meant to provide housing, environment, education and health services.
There’s currently a huge shake up of the public sector going on which includes health and social care going on. One thing is clear, there’s less money going around and more to spend it on such as an ageing population and rising unemployment.
When it comes to public sector spending we need to keep asking some simple questions:
Where is the money spent? Is it being spent well?
Many local services such as city council, NHS and education have to make huge savings and so this inevitably means some people miss out, certain communities get left on the rubbish tip. How do we protect the most vulnerable in society from being hit the most? It is usually the people who don’t have a voice get hit the most when money is tight while profit margins are squeezed for the richer people.
Through the use of exploring the open data we can get to challenge where the money is being spent, we get to see behind the sin, PR campaigns and press release and with a little training we can have many more eyes looking at the stats and figures and challenging where money is spent.
One way to take a more active role in holding these people to account is to be better informed of where money is being spent and areas where funding is required.
We need to do more to open up local data and bring people together to make use of it. Using this data we can engage the local entrepreneurs to build new, exciting and valuable services powered by data.
There is a need to bring together data on healthcare, education, crime, local authority, industry, travel and cultural services. Through this merging of data we get to explore ways of making changes to the way services are run and then measuring the impact of these changes. My current work is focused on using new technologies to enable citizens and professionals to improve services. So for me I aim to teach people how to use digital technologies to make a difference.
Pits n Pots provide us with the ability to hold to account the people who spend our tax payers money. Through the use of citizen reporting and the use of data as evidence we have never been more able to challenge the state into spending money wisely.