Making sense of place and people information




Local councils need to know more about their people and places. They already have plenty of data on their local residents. It's linking it together, so that the silos of  information are connected, that is the priority now.


You might think it will take thousands of hours of staff time to clean all the data before this can be done. Or that the GDPR won’t allow it. But in reality we can use tried and tested technology available from a range of proven small and medium-sized suppliers and it will cost less than £50,000 to cross-reference limited amounts of name and address information across our main systems - an electronic version of an old-school Rolodex.


You will be surprised how far that very small step can take us.


By doing this you will, for example, find sublet social housing properties that you can repossess for homeless families. Finding just one such property might save you £50,000 and pay for the cost of the technology by itself.


Or if a snap general election is called you can ensure that all the new voters (rising 18s) are automatically included on the electoral register.


Your own data will be much more up to date than anything the government holds. You can use it automatically to validate the identity of Universal Credit claimants, to stop further hardship and delays for families and children. Did you know that the Government Verify system does not work for two thirds of claimants? The London Borough of Brent is using it‘s own data instead.


This approach is proven to work. The private sector calls it Master data Management, identity matching, entity resolution and other names. Local Government may call it a residents index, a single view.


What it is not is a CRM; there is no case data attached to it.


It’s proven, up and running in councils such as the LB Brent and LB Camden. Brent has been running this technology for the last 10 years. I myself ran such a project at LB Camden in 2013. After the business case was done it took Camden just three months to do the technical implementation.

Sometimes it’s smart to be a follower, and much lower risk.


If you are still worried about pulling this data together, there is a very handy tool which makes this easy too. It costs around £5k per council and enables all your services and partners to cooperate on line to agree and sign off information-sharing protocols and privacy impact assessments.


The Worcestershire Office of Data Analytics has put together a high level business case for over 30 multi-agency benefits from pulling these data sets together.


The financial benefits are there for the taking. And everything you need to get going is available out there, at a modest cost.


You need consultants who are experienced, having worked on ‘Office of Data Analytics’ type projects across the country, and who will cover off all the information sharing issues with you, too. Like Sleuth Cooperative . Consultants can be expensive but small ones don’t have the same overheads to cover. You should look for day rates of £500 or less for experienced professionals. And you should expect, indeed require, that the knowledge gets handed over to people in your organisation so that you can operate independently after they’ve have finished.


Where to start?


Start with your council team working on GDPR compliance. Make sure you have Children’s services experts in the group. Somebody needs to own the project and want it - maybe your head of audit - there will be huge savings on fraud. The head of legal needs to be on board too.


Once you have that team round the table we can talk you through what is involved in making this critical, foundational step forward for information sharing within your organisation.


We need the senior people in the group to nominate the information sharing experts for their services. They will need to give one hour of their time to be interviewed by the consultants. These people, plus the system administrators that will help extract the data, along with the consultants - make up the core team needed to make this happen. Here is an outline of the stages:


Stage 1


  • Take the list of data systems and fields that Camden and Brent are using and look at whether you can extract most of those fields from some of your systems.

  • The sorts of things we will need to look at are - if your systems are outsourced or hosted off site in the cloud - can you get at the data -  can statutory returns can be used, and whether these extracts can happen more regularly (daily / weekly).

  • Take the role based security models from Camden or Brent and review them for local issues.

  • Use the Information Sharing Gateway to draw up the information sharing protocol and privacy impact assessment. There are templates available. If required, consult with the public and amend your Council’s privacy notice.

  • Run a free proof-of-concept trial to show how the electoral register can be refreshed, work with the housing fraud team to find some new sublet properties. Present this to senior managers.

  • Write an outcomes-based technology specification for a master data management system (based on existing examples).

  • Tender it out to a range of SMEs (we can supply a list) either through a framework or directly.

  • Have the core team evaluate the systems.

  • Award the contract.

  • Nominate a master data manager for your council and have them work side by side with the supplier for the implementation.

  • Set up end users with appropriate role based security access.

  • Manually test and tune the system with end users to give confidence that the matching is working.

  • Train end users (the systems are so simple this will be a short demonstration only).

Stage 2


  • Interface the master data management system with web forms etc.

  • Interface the master data management system with your business intelligence tools etc

And so on.


Budget £50,000 for the technology, £5000 for the information sharing tool and £25,000 for the consultancy.


Please contact me on hilary.simpson@sleuth.coop if you want to discuss this.