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

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

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 and aims to report its initial findings by November 2017.  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.

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 hope to develop an online self-assessment tool for local authorities to monitor themselves against the data maturity model.  Through self-assessment, councils can compare opinions within different members of their organisations and with other councils undertaking similar activities.  They can also identify the next steps they need to take to progress further along the data maturity 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

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