Step 2: Collecting initial data and evidence

This section will help you through the process of collecting the initial evidence for the local economic assessment (LEA). It will identify the evidence that contributes to understanding your area and enables comparison with other areas. It also will help you organise the evidence available to you.


  • Scope the data requirements you will need against the core data set requirements and additional sources document.
  • Contact your internal research department or local information system (LIS) to find out what data is already held by the council.
  • Use a data matrix format to pull your data sources together: this will help you identify any gaps.
  • Identify the level at which data is held: if not at a sufficiently low level, seek out further sources.
  • If a two-tier local authority, make contact with your districts to find out what data they have been collecting to support local development framework (LDF) requirements.
  • Contact your regional development agency (RDA), regional observatory or the Office for National Statistics (ONS) regional presence team to find out what data is already available.

Accessing data: key starting points

There are three good data sources which provide access to the majority of the national data you will need for the LEA. They are:

Neighbourhood statistics

Official labour market statistics

UK National Statistics

Scope of initial evidence base

Your assessment needs to explore the themes and issues that are the building blocks of any local economy. The themes are laid out below and compliment the themes outlined in the government's Draft Statutory Guidance. These are not meant to be prescriptive nor restrictive.

Business and enterprise

  • Sectoral structure of local economy and significance of particular businesses.
  • Enterprise and innovation: levels of and trends in VAT and non-VAT registered businesses start-ups and closures, growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), self-employment, and employment in, or growth of knowledge intensive industries and other high-growth sectors, and in the public sector.
  • Local business needs and factors affecting business investment and economic growth

People and communities

  • Demography: current and future population trends, particularly the working-age population.
  • Labour market: occupational structure and patterns, including earnings, employment and unemployment rates.
  • Skills: local skill levels, including educational attainment and skills gaps.
  • Economic inclusion: areas or communities that exhibit high levels of deprivation and economic exclusion and the key underlying economic and social barriers to economic participation.


  • Current and future issues including biodiversity, coastal management, reducing waste and greenhouse gases and increasing renewable energy capacity.
  • Pressures economic growth is likely to place on environmental sustainability, or potential opportunities for maximising 'green growth'.
  • Risks from long-term climate change and their potential economic implications.

Land, buildings and infrastructure

  • Existing and proposed land uses and infrastructure - physical and ICT - and whether they support the economic sustainability of the area, drawing on the evidence assembled to underpin local development frameworks (LDFs).
  • Whether there is sufficient residential, commercial and industrial provision of the right size and affordability with sufficient infrastructure to support sustainable economic growth and economic inclusion.

Economic and spatial trends

  • Consider past, present and future factors and linkages to understand impacts and trends: short, medium and long-term timeframes are important when looking to the future - clearly define and agree timeframes.
  • Review the current forecasting models relevant to the area - most likely to be associated with the regional economic strategy (RES) and regional spatial strategy (RSS) and being consolidated as part of the development of the integrated regional strategy (IRS) - to draw out key inferences for the development of the area in the short, medium and long-term.

Gathering the evidence

Before you begin the process of gathering evidence you need to be clear about the evidence that's available and how you're going to collect it.

In planning the approach and scope of the assessment, it is useful to draw upon guidance and best practice on policy analysis and evaluation. A recommended initial source is the Cabinet Office's 'Magenta book'.

Introduction to the Magenta book - on the Policy Hub website

The collection of evidence needs to be led by a process of analysis based on key questions which will help structure your assessment approach.

Example: Integrating informal activity into economic development

Informal work plays an integral role in the lives individuals and communities, in tackling worklessnesss and deprivation. It takes people out of 'absolute poverty' but traps them in 'relative poverty' by working outside the mainstream, with no access to employment rights or legal protection. It is, however, an active and integral part of the socio-economic fabric of the community.

To bring about successful economic development, local targets and strategies on employment, worklessness, business and enterprise development, poverty and regeneration need to take into account the significant number of people operating outside the system. These are the ‘uncounted': those not on official registers or statistical counts, and must be the target of present strategies and services to increase success in the future.

In 2007/08 Community Pride and Oxfam ran a participatory research programme on local informal economic activity in Salford. They worked with Salford City Council to develop a strategy to incorporate the informal economy into worklessness and local economic development strategies. Salford Council is currently considering a measurement tool to understand the hidden needs in their local economy. The tool identifies and addresses unidentified issues and patterns in communities, establishing practical methods to refine current initiatives, redirecting the right resources at the real, often hidden needs of the community.

For more information on the informal economy please visit this dedicated website:

Neednotgreed website

Key questions to help structure your assessment approach

  1. What do we already know that can be justified with reference to the evidence we hold?
  2. Does this enable us to describe what is going on directly in our area as well as the global, national, regional and local forces driving it?
  3. Can we describe the economic geography of our area in terms of the impact of other places on it and its impact on them?
  4. Can we supplement this with forecasting information which will show future trends and developments?
  5. In the light of the above, how can we best describe our economy in terms of:
    • economic sub-areas
    • the key characteristics of those areas in terms of: demography, skills, employment, enterprise
    • the drivers for change in terms of each of those factors in each area
    • the relative importance in each area of supplementary contexts around: inclusion, environment, housing, planning and connectivity?
  6. If this represents a factual description of place, what anecdotal or other impressions exist which challenge or validate it?
  7. Do these reveal gaps in data or knowledge which can and need to be collected and or mapped?
  8. Can this data be collected easily, can proxies be developed and can it be accessed on a commercial basis?
  9. What other documents can be used to challenge or confirm your analysis?
  10. How can we use the evidence within the assessment to support our planning and policy activities?

Key areas of identification

In considering these questions you need to be clear about:

  • information which is specific to the LEA and information which also applies to other strategies, plans and assessments
  • where the main sources of information are held and who is responsible for holding, providing and managing it
  • the availability of 'soft' sources of local data and information that will support the analysis and which help build the distinctive picture of your area
  • the characteristics of existing data sets.

Regional Statisticians - on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website

  • Internal capacity and roles for collecting and analysing evidence.

You also need to consider the following:

  • Does a data-sharing approach or an observatory and or LIS exist? If not, is the LEA a driver for one to be developed and what resources are available to set one up?

Setting up a LIS - on the Electronic Service Delivery website

  • Sources of information, including performance data, which the local authority's service areas are responsible for holding and managing.
  • Monitoring and reporting responsibilities of those data holders.
  • Scope of information held by key stakeholders and how this might be collected.
  • Approach to managing and referencing material and set out the processes for all stakeholders.
  • Agree and communicate information, research approach, roles and responsibilities.
  • How to use geographical information system (GIS) mapping to understand and present information.

Links to resources

ONS data set (XLS, 182KB)


Data4NR - list of local information systems


3 May 2012

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