Spending over £500

How to Access and Utilise Southend Council’s Spending Data

A detailed image depicting various items typically spent by local councils in England

One of our primary objectives is to enable you to understand and scrutinise the spending of Southend City Council.

A good place to start with fulfilling that aim is to provide you with this brief guide on where to find the Council’s spending data and how it can be used effectively.

Accessing the Data

The Council provide a list of expenditure items that are individually over £500, on a monthly basis.

The available data starts with the 12 months ending in March 2020 (so April 2019 through to March 2020), all the way through to the current financial year of the 12 months ending March 2024.

(At time of writing in early January 2024, the latest available monthly data is for November 2023)

You can find all of the monthly expenditure reports here: Southend Council’s Spending Over £500.

File Formats Available

The data is presented in multiple formats:

  • CSV (Comma-Separated Values): Ideal for analysis in spreadsheet applications like Excel.
  • TXT (Text File): Useful for quick views or importing into other types of software.
  • PDF (Portable Document Format): Best for viewing on a phone or other mobile device

Structure of the Data

The data is arranged in the following columns:

  1. Organisation Name: Identifies the council, in this case, Southend-on-Sea City Council.
  2. Directorate: Indicates the ‘high level’ specific department within the council responsible for the expenditure.
  3. Service Category Label: Describes the type of service for which the expenditure was made, such as Adult Social Care, Children and Education Services and so on.
  4. Service Category Code: Gives the code for the service category
  5. Supplier Name: The name of the supplier receiving the payment.
  6. Payment Date, Transaction Number, and Net Amount: Shows key information about each payment
  7. Purpose of Spend: Provides a brief ‘lower level’ category description of why the expenditure was incurred.
  8. Procurement Category Name: Categorises the type of procurement, such as main contractor services, other agencies, etc.

Analysing the Data

With the data in its raw format, it is not very easy to draw any meaningful conclusions from simply looking through a monthly list. We therefore have chosen to primarily work with the CSV files as this allows the data to be sorted and totalled in Excel in numerous ways such as:

  • Total amount paid to each supplier
  • Total expenditures by different categories

This type of analysis is necessary in order to turn the data into a format that can actually be useful for the purposes of uncovering trends, identifying potential areas of savings, and understanding the allocation of council funds.

Our Role in Analysis

At Southend Community Focus, we are busy sorting, analysing and summarising the monthly data so we can share the results with you.

We will provide copies of the summaries we produce, as well as the underlying transactions that support the totals in the summaries.

Those combined pieces of information should make it straight forward to understand what the total spend in different areas is, as well as allowing us to see the detail of the expenditure in each area.

Stay tuned for the first analysis!

Southend Community Focus: Empowering Citizens through Information and Analysis.