Every local authority research team in the country is encouraged to write an LGinsight discussion paper. They are designed to open up a debate on a particular topic. We hope that other local government researchers will be so inspired by what we have done, or what we have attempted to do, that they will produce their own reports.
For this report we would also encourage local government researchers to think about whether the approach is right in this report. Does it tell you anything new? How can you validate (or disprove) the conclusions with your own evidence? What will you change as a result of reading it?
This last question might be called the “Grant Shapps challenge”. In officially cancelling the Place Survey on taking office in 2010 Grant Shapps, as the Government Minister responsible for the survey, said that “surveys are a cosmetic exercise which never change anything.”1 The authors of this report consider that he was right in some cases. Surveys and benchmarks can be used to explain away poor or average performance rather than deliver real change. So as you read please think about what you are going to change as a result.
Everything in this report has been set out as clearly as possible in terms of what we have done.
Any omissions or misinterpretations are entirely the fault of the authors. The data used – Output Area Classifications (OAC) and an LGinsight/Populus poll – are all open source and free to use.
Our approach can therefore be replicated and vigorously tested and we would welcome debate on the validity of the findings and the interpretation and insights we offer.
In writing this report we are indebted to those who know far more about Output Area
Classifications (OAC) than we do. We have found the following four websites to be particularly useful:
We would also like to thank Julie Young from the London Borough of Sutton, who first suggested to us adding OAC codes to the LGinsight data, and Patrick Diamond from Populus.
Over the next few years how residents react to budget cuts and service changes will vary across the country. Those living in Blaenau Gwent, Harlow and Corby will find it harder to engage with their council than those in Wealden, Surrey Heath and South Norfolk. We know this as we have created an Engagement Risk Index score for every local authority in England, Wales and Scotland. The higher the score the more difficult it is for the local authority to engage with their residents and vice versa.
The score is based on an analysis of Output Area Classification (OAC) codes and data from a public opinion survey conducted by Populus for LGinsight. Both sets of data are open source and free to use by anyone. Any database with postcodes in it, including public opinion surveys, can have OAC codes added to it. This gives you an instant customer segmentation model for free.
There are six OAC customer groups which we have used and every postcode in the country has an OAC code; Blue Collar Communities, Constrained by Circumstances; City Living and Multicultural, Countryside and Prospering Suburbs. We know from the original OAC codes the broad demographics and locations of these groups. By adding in the data from the LGinsight/Populus poll we know how each group feels about their council and the coming budget cuts and service changes. Only just over half (55%) of those in Blue Collar Communities are satisfied with their council compared to nearly seven in ten (68%) among those in Prospering Suburbs.
Neil Wholey is Chair of LGinsight and Head of Research and Customer Insight at Westminster City Council. You can follow him on Twitter @neilwholey
To view the full report please click on the link below.