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Martin Rosenbaum | 08:30 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Is it possible to get a complete picture of how much public money is spent on local councillors in terms of pay, allowances and expenses?

Some of my colleagues have been researching this question for a forthcoming BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Political Club, about the creeping professionalisation and stealthy public funding of British party politics.

The programme's producer, Giles Edwards, put a freedom of information request to all the UK's local authorities to obtain this information for 2007/8. He has been sent the relevant data by 465 councils - which is all of them, apart from one.

Essex County Council is the exception. Initially it rejected the request on the grounds that the material is intended for future publication. However it is now 15 months after the end of the financial year in question. Essex still maintains that it can't comply, stating that its figures are so late because of serious problems with accounting software, which has meant having to re-do the whole exercise by hand,

If you want to know how much public money is collectively spent on the nation's councillors - apart from those in Essex - then listen in to The Political Club.

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