LGA Demands ‘Swift Action’ On Reducing Data Reports

The LGA has accused the Con-Dem coalition of doing little to relieve the data burden on local government

Local Authorities are tiring of delivering huge amounts of data reports that disappear into the “black hole” of government administration, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

In a critical commentary published by the LGA, the public authority organisation said it welcomed the initiative announced by Eric Pickles MP, secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, on 13 October 2010 but wants to see “swift action rather than warm rhetoric”.

Wasting money and staff hours

As an example of this burden on local authority resources, the report states that Leicestershire County Council research shows that the public sector was reporting on over 3,000 data sets which involved 92 members of staff and cost £3.7 million per year. It also specified that Luton Borough Council’s figures put the report numbers at 1,838, using 60 staff and costing £2.2 million.

The LGA is unhappy with progress since Pickles announced that the National Indicator Set would be replaced with a single comprehensive list. The list is still a work in progress but is expected to be completed during March in time for the review in April.

“Councils cannot afford to waste money and staff hours collecting and reporting information which disappears into a black hole of central government bureaucracy,” said David Parsons, the LGA Improvement Board chairman and leader of Leicestershire County Council.

Old habits die hard

“We’ve heard positive noises from government about reducing time-consuming and costly Whitehall box-ticking but old habits die hard. Of the 45 data collections being rolled back, another 18 have already been announced in their place,” he complained.

Working with the sample list of currently required reports, provided by the government, the LGA singles out 14 for immediate deletion and a further 25 that could be reduced or eliminated. The report adds that many of the data items that have been removed relate mainly to derived data, so the master reports still need to be run for the items from which the extractions were made. In addition, new data tables have been added that more than cancels any savings from the deleted items.

“We are disappointed by the scale of reductions proposed so far and remain unconvinced about the extent of the government’s ambition to minimise the reporting burden on councils,” said Parsons.