A national information function for local government?

The Local Government Association (LGA) wished to establish what actions might be needed to ensure local government has access to good quality data and information to help improve services and outcomes for local people, whether it be for needs assessment, service planning, performance management, informing citizens about performance, or more generally, decision-making with partners. With Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI), we undertook took a range of soundings and background research to explore:
  • the need for sector action to improve access to, the sharing and use of data, including possibly support in breaking down cultural and other barriers to better use of information
  • realistic options for a local government sector-owned function, that will collect, store and make accessible data and information – linking as appropriate to other national systems

A presentation on the project was made to the CLIP (Central Local Information Partnership) annual conference in October 2008.Our report was used by a working group set up the the LGA Improvement Board, whose work was covered by a Local Government Chronicle article on 21 May 2009. In essence, the report concluded that while there is a great deal of data available to councils and partnerships, they do not always have the ability or capacity to use it. There are also gaps in information or it is scattered across a range of sources making it time-consuming to collate. There are key areas where councils could potentially benefit from LGA Group support. These range from small, quick wins such as sharing knowledge on research/data suppliers and services to larger initiatives, eg, on  benchmarking. The research provided a foundation for developments around performance data from the LGA, in the shape of LG Inform, which allows councils to access and compare data and present findings. This is part of the LGA’s Knowledge Hub intended to provide the “definitive online environment for local government to produce and capture its own knowledge” – all part of the local government sector taking full responsibility for its own data and improvement needs.

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