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Wise Council: Insights from the cutting edge of data-driven local government

wise_councilThis report, published by Nesta UK, profiles some of the most pioneering uses of data in UK local government. It uses case study research to explore the many and various ways in which councils are already using data to make their services more effective, manage budget cuts and support the local economy.

The report features a wide range of councils that have been using data to inform decisions about adjusting to a harsher financial climate while maintaining high-quality service levels. The research has explored the specific ways in which data can benefit people and communities, and how councils can make this happen. The report is aimed primarily at helping local public sector staff, from senior commissioners through to frontline professionals, get more value from their data.

The research has involved nearly 40 interviews with data analysts, project managers and senior leaders in local authorities and their partner organisations. Through these interviews and a literature review, the research analysed councils’ uses of data, impact, their mindset and methodology, the challenges they encountered, the critical success factors they identified, and how these innovations could be scaled-up.

Key findings

  • Councils are increasingly sophisticated in the way they use data.
  • The research suggests that there are few areas of council activity in which data can’ t be used to help councils save money, improve services or inform decision making.
  • Getting value from data requires taking a ‘˜problem-oriented’ mindset, which looks for opportunities for data analysis to produce actionable and impactful insights.

Policy recommendations

  • Government Digital Service and DCLG to launch a £4m a year programme which co-locates data scientists and analysts in front-line local government teams such as social care.
  • A knowledge transfer scheme which enables the sector to share and scale best practice.
  • Devolution deals to include a commitment to establishing Offices of Data Analytics.
  • Government to work with councils to pilot at least one data exchange in England.