Data, statistics and evidence

What are the Forum’s basic principles with regard to data?

Simon Briscoe, February 2013

We believe that statistics, evidence, data and hard information:

  • Paint a picture of an area to provide a common understanding of the community
  • Can shed light on many of the topics of interest to the neighbourhood forum (but not others)
  • Can be a point around which to anchor a debate
  • Will be valuable in convincing partners of the need for some actions
  • Should be as impartial and objective as possible
  • Should be available for all to see
  • Will be of highly variable quality with some being very accurate and some being ‘softer’ (and we’ll be open about that where we can be)
  • Is best viewed in the context of trends over time (where available rather than just one number) or comparisons between areas at the same point in time
  • Should be as detailed as possible without disclosing personal information
  • Can be collected ourselves or sought from others who might already have it

Types of data the Forum might hope to have

Data we collect ourselves
This means going out and surveying/counting things. Examples might be: number of people walking down different stretches of a road, business types, cars parked at times of day, traffic flows/queues, shops that are empty, shop types, shop opening hours, bus frequency and occupancy, heavy goods unloading, and opinion polls of one sort or another, etc. Included in this section would be the survey and place check work carried out in the second half of 2012.

Census
The ten yearly census was carried out in spring 2011 and results are now being published (and will continue to become available through 2013). We are collating some data from it for our use. All sorts of socio-economic data will be available – population by age, ethnicity, religion, job type, housing tenure, car ownership, etc. View the questionnaire  – a good many of the questions will have responses available at detailed, local area level. If anyone wants to look at data themselves, take a deep breath and go here. You can also see a schedule of what’s being released.

It will be another nine months before everything is published, but useful stuff is already available. This rich source really comes to life when the 2011 data are available to compare with that for 2001 as it is the changes that will be most interesting.

Read more about the Census data for Highgate and its surrounds.

Data collected by other authorities
What data do councils, TfL and the police collect? There might be other bodies too. Clearly public sector bodies do release some data and using FoI and other means, more can be extracted. Police have crime data (some already released here – but the local police should be asked to supply all the data they have) and TfL need to be approached for bus and red route data.

We should also ask the councils to supply all the data they have. A quick look at their home pages give some sense of what they might have ( See Camden Council and Haringey Council websites). Virtually every activity they are engaged in produces data. They might not see it as such but it is and is useful for us. What about data on:

  • council tax (banding and late payments),
  • parking fines (by street, time of day etc),
  • CPZ (names and addresses of permit holders),
  • housing rent (how many council properties, delayed payments, rent levels etc),
  • potholes (how many repaired, reported),
  • school catchment areas,
  • recycling rates,
  • licensing/pubs etc,
  • drain cleaning etc.

Broadly, where do their employees live? Is N6 getting its fair crack of the whip when it comes to jobs? If they refuse on grounds of disclosure of personal information then we just roll back the detail of the request – eg they might not give the names of who has CPZ permits so ask for the address. If they don’t give that, ask for the street and postcode – they cannot plausibly withhold that. What about a list of council-owned property?

There might also be national bodies worth approaching. What about DVLA to find out what sort of cars are registered in the area? DWP has data on benefit recipients down to fairly local level.

As a footnote to this section: Charitable or private sector bodies might be tempted to share some data – schools, sports clubs, churches, HLSI, Harrington etc.

Data used by the councils for planning
It would be interesting to know what data they use for “planning”. I am not convinced they’ll use much (as they seem mainly to firefight and act more incrementally – or just spend any spare money on pet political projects) but good council practice would be to use census data plus their own to help decide where money is to be spent. So the question here is: we want to use data to help set priorities and plan for our area, what data do you use and how in setting service levels?

Third-party data
Experian and others have socio-demographic data for Highgate that they have created from other sources like those above. We should approach them to see if they’d help with more. One example of a different type of company is localdata.com – they collect info on the changing nature of high streets and might just be willing to help out by letting us have some free data.

The plan is to have all the data/facts in one central place and to make as much of this possible on the website. We are very keen to have suggestions about data that people might want to have or might be aware of that would be interesting. People are more than able to collect their own data but we’d be keen to encourage anyone so inclined to share their idea with us before collecting it (not least in case we already have a plan in place) and to share it centrally once collected. Any set of figures will be so much more valuable if it is consistent with other data and analysed alongside it.

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