The Office for National Statistics has stepped in to make good the chronic lack of information about what is happening at the neighbourhood level. With a 28 million pound budget from the Treasury’s Capital Modernisation Fund it will provide information for small areas in a way that has not been possible up to now.The lack of information about neighbourhoods was highlighted in 1999 in the Social Exclusion Unit’s Policy Action Team report. A commitment to provide the information was made in the National Strategy Action Plan launched by the Prime Minister in January 2001. The information black hole currently makes it difficult to pinpoint employment, drug and housing blackspots and particularly to detect emerging blackspots.
The ONS plans to develop a Neighbourhood Statistics Service that will track socio-economic trends and changes overtime and provide localized data. This will allow national and local government and other service providers to improve the way they design and target policies and to identify potential problems more quickly.
The service will rely on many partners across the public and private sector and will be dependent on input from central government departments, the devolved administrations, local government and the wider public service.
Birmingham City Pride www.birmingham.gov.uk <http://www.birmingham.gov.uk> has developed a system for local needs which is similar to that planned by ONS. It allows the user to select information at levels from citywide, constituency, ward and enumeration districts. Data can be viewed automatically as a thematic layer on the map. Tabular reports can be provided instantly giving information on targets and indicators in the selected area and comparing results against citywide, regional and national figures. These reports can be imported into spreadsheets or other applications. The system know as ‘Oi’ is an internet-based application u sing geographic information to present data from a number of databases in an integrated and visual context. ‘Oi’ can mean either ‘Open Information’ or ‘Oi! We are not achieving change! What are we to do about it?’