Local Government needs to do more to develop a strong data culture

5 Dec 2018 - 9:47am

Councils slowly developing in this area, but more work needed to ‘break silo working’ and maximise the benefits of the data they hold, says Auditor General

Local authorities in Wales are sitting on a ‘rich vein’ of personal, financial and community data that could help them develop more efficient and effective services. But, according to a report published by the Auditor General for Wales, while councils are slowly developing a strong data culture, they need to do more to unlock its full potential.

The report concludes that only a few local authorities have focused on building an environment to get the most from the data they hold – such as adopting a set of common standards; integrating management systems; investing in data analytical skills and capacity and improving the range and coverage of personal data they collect with partners.

Being smart and strategic in using data can bring many benefits - for local authorities and their partners; the communities they work in and the people they serve. It helps local authorities to make better use of their resources; make better and quicker decisions; and it strengthens governance and accountability.

The report assesses the levels of ‘data maturity’ in local government across areas including leadership; integrated customer data; data-driven decisions and open data and concludes that most authorities have a long way to improve.

The report also includes some good practice case studies from across Wales and England where organisations and projects are using data effectively (appendix 3)

There are a number of recommendations for improvement. These include:

  • Local authorities should have a clear vision that treats data as a key resource
  • Invest and support the development of staff skills in data analytics, mining and segmentation
  • Set data reporting standards to ensure that minimum data standards underpin decision making
  • Make more open data available

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton said:

“It’s really important that local government starts to create a culture where elected members, senior officers and front-line staff think about and use data differently. This report identifies the key steps that can be taken to create a data-driven environment – focusing on clear leadership; strong vision and breaking silo working. It highlights examples of organisations who use their data effectively, and I hope that focusing on good practice will see authorities in Wales upping their game.”