Better use of data

The use of data plays an increasing role in designing, delivering and transforming public services to improve outcomes and drive efficiencies within current financial constraints.


More data than ever is available to inform digital tools and services and get greater insights into user needs and local places.

The LGA is working to get a better understanding about the value of data in public services and encourage local authorities to open up, share and better use data to:

  • Design services around user needs
  • Engage and empower citizens to build their communities
  • Drive efficiencies and public service transformation
  • Promote economic and social growth through the innovative use of data
  • Be transparent and publicly accountable

LGA data initiatives

The LGA supports a number of initiatives that help local authorities to develop the best data management practices and to encourage wider re-use between councils, their delivery partners and the wider general public. 

Find out more about our current projects and learn insights from past projects below.

Current activities

A project has commenced in 2018 to review and overhaul the information sharing data standards that are used extensively within local government. These standards are facilitated and maintained by the Local Government Association and comprise a series of version controlled interconnected lists of definitions describing a 360 degree view of councils’ data and business operations.

The project is consulting widely and aims to revisit these standards that first appeared in the last decade. Some of the lists such as the list of all local government services are still critical to many data applications and sharing initiatives. Their links to the lists of citizen’s needs and circumstances or the powers and duties that authorise them are also still highly relevant. Other lists, such as the interactions lists and the channels lists are less relevant or have become out of date. This project is putting effort into these lists ensuring we overhaul and update those lists that people rely upon, dropping ones that haven’t taken hold, and leaving dormant ones which were used in the past but have now outlived their purpose.

Our opening strategy is a document titled Review of Local Government Business Model and Lists (also available as a MS Word, ODT or PDF download). This gives our first stab at changes we think are needed. It arises from a desk study of evidence and experiences collated by the LGA and supporting team. But everything’s up for grabs at present, so the Support Team if you want to propose something different or just to register an interest in a list that you’d like to see continue. Your feedback is important to the LGA’s project team to guide direction and priorities for the next steps. Ongoing discussion will happen here in the Knowledge Hub (sign-in required).

This opening project blog provides more background and objectives for this work.

This project is examining the key characteristics, processes and cultural factors present in an ‘Intelligent Council’ (that is, a council which uses evidence and information to inform decision-making and transform services) and the resources currently available that could support this.  The work is being undertaken with an independent researcher and in association with The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Local Area Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA).

Through desk study, interviews and surveys, the project aims to:

  • demonstrate the benefits of undertaking research in a structured, logical and well resourced way
  • identify generic support and guidance materials to support authorities on their journey to become an ‘Intelligent Council’. 

While the focus is on councils, the outputs and lessons learned from this project will be applicable more widely to any local public sector organisation – particularly a fire authority, national park authority and voluntary sector organisation.

The project started in late July 2017 with phase 1 which reported initial scoping and market testing with a report and presentation.  We will also consider the most appropriate means of presenting the findings and hope to develop an online resource for public sector organisations to understand the recommended research infrastructure to be encouraged and sources of materials, skills and tools to help them implement it.

In 2018, the LGA was encouraged to develop a similar strategy to support an assessment and suggestions for improvement in council efficiency. Best practice in approaches to improved efficiency is aligned closely with the intelligent and better use of data for evidence in decision making. As a consequence, this project was expanded to be towards “efficient and intelligent councils” and work is underway to develop content, best practice and self-assessment tools to help councils assess their use of data and their efficiency. This project is aiming to report by March 2019 – see Efficient and intelligent councils.

During 2016, as part of NESTA’s local datavores programme, a project was undertaken in partnership with the LGA and local government to identify the characteristics of a “Wise Council” – that is one which makes good use and re-use of the data it holds.  The project drew together many local case studies describing examples of good data use and these were presented together in Nesta’s Wise Council report published in November 2016.

Part of this work included the development of a Data Maturity Model that serves to identify the characteristics and the journey of progress that councils may travel as they improve the management and use of the data they hold. 

During the second half of 2017-18 we progressed this work with in partnership with Nesta and with our technical partner, Porism Ltd., to transpose the analogue model above into an online data maturity self-assessment tool. This is designed for any officers and councillors within local authorities to respond to a series carefully chosen questions to determine their view of their organisations maturity in its collection, management and use of data. From the assessment results, the tool is then able to assess the organisation’s capability and compare the results with (a) others in the organisation, (b) other departments’ viewpoint in the council,(c) other councils of similar type or locality. From this comparison of assessments, we hope for councils to compare opinions and scores in order to stimulate discussion and options for further improvements. The tool also offers respondents with details of their assessed maturity within the improvement model, along with tips, case studies and sources of further guidance to move further along the improvement journey.

With the remarkable developments in IT technology and data practices in recent years, it is important that councils remain proficient and up-to-date in modern techniques and best practice.  Those authorities that are making most progress with their data activities have a strong support and scrutiny from their elected members.  The LGA, with other expert partners, has developed and runs training days for councillors designed to brief them on good data and digital practice with awareness, practical solutions and case studies.

Concluded activities

Promoting, facilitating and enhancing the role of data in local authorities to generate efficiencies or savings or to transform and innovate services is a key LGA priority. The Local data experts programme focuses on helping authorities make better use of data by encouraging closer working partnerships and associations with others – particularly drawing on support from data experts.

Data can play an important role in decision making and helping to solve problems. But often the data generated in local communities are held in silos, fragmented, not released for wider use and are under utilised. During 2016 and 2017, a Local Data Expert Programme is taking place to help local authorities to manage, use, analyse and share their data better, encourage the opening up of shared working within authorities or across combined authorities, devolved areas, wider partnerships and within the open data community.  Through grant funding, we hope to encourage improved data use by authorities, by sharing best practice and expertise to help build leadership, skills and capacity.  The grants offered were intended to “buy-in” expertise to develop and progress innovative improvements in data use.

During Autumn 2016, some 54 local authorities made proposals for work and 8 bids were successful.  The projects began in January 2017 and are continuing to make progress through the year.

Learn more about this project

Case studies to describe the results of this programme are available here

We commissioned an independent data researcher to review the programme and interview many of the participants.

View the final report

In 2016, the LGA partnered with Nesta's Local Datavores research programme to explore how local authorities can use data better to transform services and improve the lives of people and communities. The research looked at the ways in which data can help local authorities to solve the financial and demographic pressures they will face over the coming years.

The final report, Wise Council: Insights from the cutting edge of data-driven local government, was published in November 2016. The report develops a data strategy in the form of a data maturity model for local authorities to work towards and includes practical examples where organisations are maximizing the value and use of the data that they are collecting as part of their day-to-day business. 

Between 2014 and 2016, the LGA facilitated some £2.64 million in grant funding for local government through the “Open Data Breakthrough” programme and the “Open Data Incentive Scheme”.  These two initiatives continue to deliver benefits today and were aimed to help authorities release and use more data in meaningful, practical ways – particularly by engaging with local people and improving the local services they deliver.  Most of the projects' evaluation reports have been published and outline what councils did, the impacts and benefits. The LGA has also collated some good practice case studies to help councils realise the potential of using open data. 

Find out more

During the 2016-2017 session, the LGA partnered with the Open Data Institute (ODI) to develop online practical aids and eLearning modules to promote good practice in local information management and to enhance the skills and knowledge of elected members and local government staff. An effective set of eLearning modules was developed and published to instruct on better data practices and to encourage a consistent approach to the use of data standards and publishing techniques. These modules were supported by a series of nine online webinars, where tuition and questions and answers were provided to users in live online sessions.

A summary of the eLearning modules and YouTube recordings of the webinars gives more information here.

During the 2016-2017 session, the LGA partnered with the Open Data Institute (ODI) to develop online practical aids and eLearning modules to promote good practice in local information management and to enhance the skills and knowledge of elected members and local government staff. An effective set of eLearning modules was developed and published to instruct on better data practices and to encourage a consistent approach to the use of data standards and publishing techniques. These modules were supported by a series of nine online webinars, where tuition and questions and answers were provided to users in live online sessions.

A summary of the eLearning modules and YouTube recordings of the webinars gives more information here.

 

Tools and resources

An open data infrastructure for local government is complex – particularly because published local open data comes from over 350 separate local sources but is only sensible and re-usable when it conforms to appropriate, minimal data standards to ensure consistency throughout the country and to facilitate easy data discovery, aggregation and re-use.

The LGA is a key advocate of open data publishing and local government transparency. For over a decade, the LGA has coordinated the development of sector-wide tools and guidelines and has driven the local government transparency agenda since its launch in 2010.

Learn more about the tools and guidelines available