London's 32 boroughs spent an estimated £126m on mental health services in 1997-98 - more than the combined total for all other metropolitan districts, and almost a quarter of the entire local government spend on such services across the whole of England and Wales.

Yet, at£743m, the capital's local authorities lavished less than three- quarters of the sum spent by the metropolitan districts and not even a fifth of the amount spent by English and Welsh local government as a whole on social services for elderly people in the last financial year.

Of the 351,767 people claiming to be homeless in 1996-97 (local authorities accepted only 136,639 such claims), 68,239 were in London and 148,255 in non-metropolitan districts - yet the capital spent more than twice as much on homelessness because its councils had little housing stock of their own.

If these are the sort of statistics you want from local government, then the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy's statistical information is surely the place to go.

Covering all main council activities from archives to waste disposal, it is both comprehensive and reliable.

The service is the culmination of more than a century of information exchange between local government treasurers, and its compilation formed one of CIPFA's earliest activities. What you get on this site are the headline figures - if you want the details of individual authorities, that will cost.

As a taster, and as an overview of national spending and service provision, you could not ask for more.

It looks good on the screen as well. But what a shame that the website designer seemed to believe that everyone would have a 24-inch screen on which to view it.

For most of us, using SIS is going to mean an awful lot of scrolling.