LG Inform Plus - Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

This case study highlights the work that Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council has undertaken using LG Inform Plus. This includes its approach to business intelligence via the use of the LG Inform Plus API (Application Programmable Interface).


This case study discusses the use of an API. The LG Inform Plus API provides direct access to the LG Inform Plus database containing over 15,000 data items (metric types) and 1 billion data values. Via the API, data for any combination of metric types, areas and time periods can be accessed via one easy to do query. The results can then be used to populate spreadsheets or more advanced solutions such as software dashboard applications.

The challenge

As part of its drive to improve the council’s approach to performance management, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council was keen to streamline its approach to gathering publicly available data, including contextual data. This was needed to empower decision-makers within the council to make the best possible data-evidenced choices when forward planning.

Streamlined and comparable data was needed to support the council’s business intelligence team to evidence the Borough Plan Outcomes Framework, which was developed in collaboration with partners across the borough and outlines Stockport’s ambitions until 2030. This would allow leaders to see where the resident outcomes were different in Stockport (against national and regional benchmarks, and other similar areas), to compare results across metrics, ascertain whether objectives were achievable and to baseline performance across Stockport.

The solution

Prior to using LG Inform Plus the council sourced data from multiple public sources. This involved working with various different APIs and data feeds, meaning the data coming through was disjointed and hard to consolidate – this was time-consuming and complex. A single API was needed and LG Inform Plus offered this.

The LG Inform Plus API has provided the council with a wealth of data through a single standard interface, offering a deeper understanding of the local area and allowing staff to concentrate on the analysis of data rather than the gathering, processing and refinement of it. The speed at which it has been possible to get data from the API has also been of great benefit in analysing data quickly.

I was surprised at how quick it was to get the data floodgates open with a few calls to the API. This meant I could start to think about the reporting plan and the new features we could offer to developers, analysts in business intelligence and, ultimately, to managers and service leaders within the organisation.

Ivan Lambert, Analyst/Developer, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

Using the API, council developers have produced some specific outputs for the council’s Business Intelligence function, one of which is a dashboard developed in Tableau using a compilation of data from LG Inform Plus. The API has also offered the council some unique capabilities including well organised and maintained behind the scenes data storage, a breadth and standardisation of public data and the compilation of metadata such as polarity for each metric.

The ability to map geographic results using the API has also helped the council to understand more about its data and saved time that would otherwise have been spent on manual mapping.

In addition to the Tableau dashboard, themed reports have been created for a number of service areas. The search functionality was also used to find new data sets on key areas of work for the council, such as climate change, to provide additional benchmarking information and to link this data with existing dashboards already produced locally.

The council team have been impressed by the level and speed of technical support received. The online chat function and direct contact with the LG Inform Plus support team provided them with practical suggestions and solutions to queries very quickly, which in turn helped the council to keep momentum going when developing new prototypes.

The impact

Using the Tableau dashboard created using the API, the council now has more understanding of the ‘landscape’ of council metrics. With much of the public data in one place, it has been possible to start to find the correlations, connections and contradictions, and to look more comprehensively at exceptions.

LG Inform Plus broadens our exceptions reporting. It wouldn’t be feasible to even consider reporting over thousands of metrics – to find outliers for exceptions reporting - without LG Inform Plus.

 Ivan Lambert, Analyst/Developer, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

The initial summary dashboard provides an overview of corporate metrics and from this it is possible to drill-down to lower geographies where the source data is available. The drill-down allows users to see where the effects of changes are most strongly felt at a local level and to look at the context for this. This approach has enabled more joined up thinking and a broader insight, giving decision makers the ability to consider how one metric may be affecting another.

Sessions have been held with the corporate management team at the council, summarising the dashboard data and a new suite of monthly management reports will soon be developed allowing progress to be monitored.

The council works closely on their shared priorities around health and social care with the Integrated Care System (ICS) Locality Team and is planning to use the LG Inform Plus data and the dashboard that they have developed to support their shared performance meetings. In the future the council intends to publish reports and dashboards on their open data portal ‘Big Stockport Picture’ which will provide data to support transparency and also voluntary groups with evidence for grant funding.

Sustainability

The council intends to use the tool long-term, particularly as data is regularly added, and this will include Census data. Promoting the benefits of LG Inform Plus in the council is underway, to ensure confidence and trust in the information available through the tool.

Lessons learnt

Having the ability to try LG Inform Plus for free before purchasing was essential as this provided the council with proof of its usefulness. They were able to experience building prototypes and to see the range of data that was available and quickly realised the benefit that adopting such a powerful tool would have for the council.

Contact:
For more information about LG Inform please contact: lginformplus@local.gov.uk
For more information about the use of the API at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council please contact: Ivan Lambert, Analyst/Developer: Ivan.lambert@stockport.gov.uk