On 13 October 2010, Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), announced the replacement of the National Indicator Set with a single comprehensive list of all the data returns central government expects local government to provide.
He said "My aim is to make the data requirements we place on local government transparent and to review and reduce this for April 2011. I will involve local government in this review, to help us ensure the list contains only the minimum of central government data needs."
A draft list containing the data collections and surveys central government demands from local government for 2011/12 was published on 17 December for consultation.
As well as writing directly to chief executives, DCLG also worked with Local Government (LG) Improvement and Development to establish a specific community of practice (CoP) dedicated to gathering sector views.
DCLG also invited a small number of councils to act as a Challenge Group (they include Hampshire County Council, Leicester City Council, Manchester City Council, Somerset County Council, St Albans District Council and London Borough of Wandsworth) to provide a focused sector challenge to the returns on the list.
A new study into Whitehall's data burden on councils has identified that the average single-tier authority is required to report 43,000 different pieces of information. Some of that reporting requires the entry of tens-of-thousands of individual facts covering every pupil, householder receiving benefits, or resident using a particular service in a local area, taking the total number of data entries to more than 12 million.
The new Single Data List, published on 14 April 2011, contains the entirety of central government departments' data requirements from local government for 2011/12, which means, that for the first time, councils know exactly what information Government will ask for over the course of the year. It was subsequently updated with the inclusion of data demands from government's arm's-length bodies.
Councils will not have to provide anything that is not on the list, unless extra funding is provided.
The Government has committed to work with councils to challenge all items on the list – with a view to publishing a draft list for 2012/13 by December 2011.
22 June 2012