There is not a simple answer as the starting position of each local authority is unique. I can say with confidence that one area often overlooked, yet crucial in deciding where to begin tackling these issues, is the efficiency of data management and movement within local authorities.

As consultants, we have an important role to play here. I’ve always found the best approach is to work closely with the officers to understand: Is that data available? How easy would it be to extract it? Who has responsibility for data, particularly relevant for out-sourced collections? What are the data processes you regularly complete for internal and/or external reporting? It’s all too easy to request data, model efficiencies and report back without taking a step back to understand how many local authority officer hours are spent each month to mould data into meaningful outputs.

Having worked with local authorities across the UK the starting point for data management varies considerably. Some may manage data via an all-encompassing cloud based solution whilst others are using multiple software applications to extract and analyse performance and financial data manually.

As a sector, we are not graced with a single guidance document or model that will extract raw data to produce meaningful analysis for performance and budgeting purposes. Each authority is unique and therefore the data requirements are also unique, often developing over time as services change. However, we are working with customers to provide solutions that deliver efficiency gains without significant investment by reducing the quantity of ‘manual’ movement and checking of waste data between reporting procedures.

I have posed a lot of questions in this piece. I would like to finish with one final question. Are you spending too much time and money managing your data?