Going local – delivering data for our communities

A map graphic of a community

Statistics for local levels of geography are essential to understand the issues affecting communities as well as helping all levels of government measure the progress of their policies. Emma Hickman explains how the ONS is rising to meet the challenge of delivering these detailed data.  

What have we done so far? 

The UK government’s focus on levelling up has triggered renewed interest in regional disparities alongside a growing consensus among policymakers, analysts and academics that better subnational statistics are required to support policymaking and analysis.  

It is just over a year since we launched the Government Statistical Service (GSS) subnational data strategy and we’ve achieved a lot in that time. Led by the ONS in collaboration with the wider GSS, academia and public sector, the aim is to provide detailed, harmonised and timely subnational statistics to ensure citizens, businesses and policymakers can make informed decisions on the economy, environment and society. 

As part of the strategy, we established a new collaboration with the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities which enabled us to significantly accelerate our development work and establish ONS Local, our new analytical advisory service for local government with dedicated staff based around the UK.  The ONS Local team have been working with a wide range of stakeholders across the UK as well as building on relationships with the devolved nations. 

Last February, we launched the Subnational indicators explorer, an interactive which uses a variety of data sources to allow you to compare local authorities with the UK average across different indicators such as weekly pay and healthy life expectancy to happiness and availability of high-speed broadband. This aligns with some of the key metrics selected to measure the progress of the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ priorities. 

Over the rest of the year we have published a set of releases rich in data vital for local government and communities. Some of the highlights include: 

Today, we have published a trio of releases which further builds on our subnational data strategy. For the first time, we have broken down annual gross value added (GVA) estimates for the UK to the smallest geographic areas possible, so they can be used as “building blocks” to create tailored data for any area of interest across the UK. These estimates will aid monitoring and evaluation of very localised policy interventions designed to improve local growth. 

We also have new analysis of towns and out of towns locations, that portrays the local employment growth happening outside of town and city centres. And finally, new analysis of the night time economy, shining a light on how the economy operates across different sectors and locations during the night, from healthcare to pubs and clubs.  

Our plans for the future 

Over the next few months we plan to release new data on the effect of place characteristics on geographic mobility across towns and cities. This means we can follow geographic trends as people move around the country which will help build pictures of places and track impact on educational outcomes and workforces in that area. 

To help local decision makers, we will be releasing cluster analysis to local authority level across a range of headline metrics. This work will aim to match similar local authorities together, allowing them the option to work together and collaborate, potentially through ONS Local. 

We will also publish improved UK and regional estimates of business and publicly funded Research & Development (R&D) to lower breakdowns than we have done before. This will enable more accurate measurement of the impact of policy interventions and monitor progress towards the Levelling Up R&D mission. 

Our work so far and our exciting plans for the future will help us to provide a really clear picture of how the UK’s local economies, populations and environments are changing.  

Emma Hickman is Deputy Director for Subnational Statistics and Analysis at the ONS

Emma Hickman is Deputy Director for Subnational Statistics and Analysis at the ONS