This case study highlights the work that Coventry City Council has undertaken using LG Inform Plus. This includes their use of the direct data feed (Application Programmable Interface: API) which allows them and also the API users to view and download open data about local areas. It also enables council officers to use and manipulate their local and comparative performance data for benchmarking purposes.
Coventry City Council were keen to find a fit for purpose approach to benchmark their activity in comparison to other authorities. By 2011, national indicator data sets were no longer being produced making it far more difficult for the council to find information in one place and compare their performance with others. Having this ability would allow them to contrast the council’s metrics with those of other areas and enable them to make more informed data-based decisions at the local level.
The authority initially began by using LG Inform and though other commercial tools were available, as a sector led platform they were keen to use and contribute towards a product which was created for the benefit of the sector. In 2013 the authority additionally started using LG Inform Plus as this provides them with the ability to manipulate data in a more advanced way, for example allowing the creation of a performance dashboard to clearly present data and also the building of comparators. LG Inform Plus also enables the authority to enhance their own applications by integrating data and embedding subsets into their own datamaps, bringing both internal and external information together. One example is the work undertaken in the authority with social care colleagues in using their own internal social care data alongside the API and national comparators from LG Inform Plus which provided a greater level of data which was then housed their own insight data hub.
The Insight team at Coventry find LG Inform Plus intuitive and straightforward to use. They like the ability it gives them to bring together a range of different metrics in one place in the API and create their own indicators and custom geography which is described as unique to the product.
Initially LG Inform Plus provided the authority with the ability to benchmark and compare and contrast their metrics with other areas, for instance using comparators to produce the One Coventry Plan and the Coventry City Annual Performance Report. More recently LG Inform Plus has allowed them to respond to fresh issues that they face and to enrich the data they hold about local people and places within a Citywide Intelligence Hub. Previously the authority collected this information in a large 100 page data book which few people would read. Instead, what was wanted was more quantitative data intelligence to show what different parts of the city actually felt like and LG Inform Plus allowed them to bring together a range of information to produce shorter profiles about different parts of the city in a more user- friendly way. Previously, to find this data the authority would have visited multiple individual sources. LG Inform Plus enables single API’s to pull this data together in a format that they can use in their own internal data hub.
Using the LG Inform Plus API saves the authority time and resource. Rather than working out how to use various API’s LG Inform Plus allows them to connect to one and select all the data they want and move this to their own platform. The profiles enable them to show what different parts of the city look like when they talk to residents, informing them about their local area and supporting work towards improving areas of the city. Colleagues in social care and heads of service at the council have also used the outputs from LG Inform Plus via the joint strategic needs assessments that the product allowed them to create.
Coventry City Council’s Insight Team continue to use LG Inform Plus primarily for benchmarking as it allows quick and easy access to data. The council find the product affordable and describe the level of support provided by LGA in using the tool as ‘brilliant’. The LGA are managing and updating the data on a regular basis which ensures Coventry and other users of the system get the maximum benefit from it. The LGA also hold regular regional LG Inform Plus training sessions which staff members are encouraged to attend. The council promote the product in conversation with other authorities and describe LG Inform plus as critical for the work they do in Coventry.
The Leader and Chief Executive in Coventry have been very supportive of evidence led policy which LG Inform plus contributes to and it has been helpful to have this support.
Si Chun Lam, Insight Development Manager at Coventry suggests that having a clear single case for using the product can help users focus when initially using it, saying: “We had a clear case as we needed to develop the One Coventry plan and needed comparators for this. LG Inform plus was the best way of doing this as it had data in one place and it emerged as the best product for us. It is a sector led tool with LGA support behind it and the subscription fee ultimately feeds into the product which will benefit authorities. There is so much data and information in there so when thinking how to use it look for what you need and then look more widely at what is in there when you are comfortable.”