Time to move over Mickey

Changes to standard lists making up the Local Government Business Model — What’s important for you?

The standard lists maintained by the Local Government Association (LGA) are being overhauled to concentrate on what’s most useful to councils. That means putting extra effort into the lists that people rely on, dropping ones that haven’t taken hold, and leaving dormant ones which were used in the past but have now outlived their purpose.

The old familiar “Mickey Mouse” shaped Local Government Business Model (LGBM) is likely to be replaced by one that needs another nickname — answers on a postcard!

The document Review of Local Government Business Model and Lists (also available as a Word, ODT or PDF download) gives our first stab at changes we think are needed. It arises from a desk study of evidence and experiences collated by the LGA and supporting team. But everything’s up for grabs at present, so email the Support Team if you want to propose something different or just to register an interest in a list that you’d like to see continue. Your feedback will be shared with the LGA’s Transparency people whom you can also contact directly. The LGA will use details of interested people for future consultation. Ongoing discussion will happen here in the Knowledge Hub (sign-in required).

What are the lists?

The lists are a set of taxonomies defining the semantics of local government. In plainer English that means they define consistent terminology and definitions for types of service, customer, area, metric and many other concepts that all councils use but often name differently. The lists let us more easily compare and combine data about the same things, whatever they’re called locally by councils.

The LGBM shows the types of relationship that exist between items in each list, for example, certain functions are performed by certain organisation types. Every oval on the LGBM diagram shows a list and every line between ovals shows how the lists’ items relate to one another. The lists and relationships (known as “mappings”) are published in online standards pages and also made available as Linked Data. The paper Information standards in local government (PDF) by the LGA’s Tim Adams explains the purpose behind holding the lists and mappings. Porism’s standards guidance explains more about taxonomies.

Which lists should stay?

It’s recommended that every list and mapping on the new diagram should stay.

The Services list (also known as the Local Government Services List — LGSL) was created in 2002 and has been meticulously updated annually (or more frequently) since then in line with changes in legislation and council feedback. Its original main purpose was to monitor what services each council provides over each delivery channel (face-to-face, phone, web forms, etc), but its value as a common reference framework was apparent from day one. Now it serves as a reference to what councils can and must deliver, what records they keep and what types of data are published.

Metric, area and period types define the key dimensions of all the metrics collated and published by the LGA in the LG Inform and LG Inform Plus reporting tools and their Application Programme Interface (API).

Circumstance and need lists give the characteristics of people and places. These combine to infer the most suitable types of service for individual customers.

Which lists might go?

Lists of life events, issues & benefits and common processes have all historically played a role in projects to measure the cost, benefits and impact of services, but are not now actively used — we think. If you need them or might want to take them over, let us know.

Lists giving an idealised council web menu structure, an A-Z of services and types of delivery channel were all well used when websites designed to deliver services from desktops predominated. Now that a myriad of electronic channels are used and search largely takes the place of browsing, it is proposed that these lists be dropped. That is — unless you present a strong case for keeping them.

Which lists will stop being updated?

Lists likely to be deprecated, that is left online but not updated, are: the Interactions List, the Subjects List (which is the old Cabinet Office integrated Public Sector Vocabulary), and the Scottish Services List. The Scots have gone their own way with service listing in recent years but other parts of LGBM remain relevant to local government outside England and Wales.

Why are the lists important?

With 353 councils in England doing similar things, we need a way of sharing information to make their jobs easier and let others make sense of data and documents on a national scale that describe the same things using different terms.

The lists allow for local variance whilst providing an underlying structure of codes and mappings that let information to be joined up behind the scenes. Lists are managed from the centre so, with reasonable confidence, any council can look up information such as: what’s the identifier for the “Care at home” service?; what are the legal obligations to provide it?; what needs does it serve?; what types of council provide it? …

Let the LGA’s LG Inform Plus support team know if you care about particular lists or if you have any questions.

What happens next?

Feedback will be discussed on the Knowledge Hub (sign-in required) with initial consultation closing at the end of September 2018. We’ll bring in experts in different fields and anyone who has shown interest in the following six months. Agreed changes will be implemented to the extent that LGA can resource them. Anything that can’t be resourced in that timescale will be held over. As ever, we’ll closely consult the Local Government Standards Body — iStandUK — and we’ll try to engage with others who have an interest in data standards such as the Open Data Institute and the Government Data Service. We’ll look at how the lists help meet the principles of the Local Digital Declaration.

You’ll see the lists refined and help given in using them. We’ve learned a lot over the last 16 years and want to see these open public resources continue to make local government increasingly transparent and more productive.