A day in the life of Tim Adams and the connection between LG Inform and LG Inform Plus / LG Inform API

Please find below an interview with Tim Adams from the LGA about LG Inform plus and LG Inform API, please post any questions you have to this blog and Tim will be happy to answer thenmfor you.


Q Tim, can you explain a bit more about LG Inform Plus?

LG Inform Plus is a complementary optional premium service offered in addition to LG Inform that allows users more flexible access to a greater amount of detailed performance and contextual data, along with reporting and other online tools to help organisations make sense of their business and the issues that affect them.  It is built upon the legacy of local government’s esd-toolkit programme.  

While LG Inform lets you compare your authority’s area with others, LG Inform Plus examines more granular performance and context within your borders.  Through charts, tables and maps you can illustrate the make-up of your communities, where specific services might be delivered in the best way.  You can model better targeting to help improve overall council performance whilst also improving the standard of living and well-being for specific citizens and especially vulnerable groups.

Q Where can people go for more information about the subscription cost of LG Inform Plus?

LG inform Plus is a premium, subscription service open to local authorities, fire services and their partners.  Subscription rates are modest – a small single annual figure for an organisation gives access to every member and officer within it.

Subscriptions are based on size of organisation and are listed here:  subscription rates.  LG Inform Plus is non-profit making and its subscription model is intended to ensure programme sustainability and help underwrite delivery and new development costs.

Subscribers also benefit from free access to contextual ward level demographic data from the Experian Mosaic and CACI Acorn products.

More details about LG Inform Plus can be found here: LG Inform plus

Q What are the plans for LG Inform Plus this year

There is much to do to rollout and further develop LG Inform Plus benefits.  Some features are already live and proving to be successful and we will be building on these.

Immediate plans will involve the preparation of a number of themed small area profile reports that we will publish and share with all elected members in England to demonstrate the potential of this new service.  Officers of subscribing councils can then use and extend these reports further or make their own tailored materials. 

Beyond this, we will be encouraging users to examine the new toolset and reporting aids, helping them obtain most benefit from their potential.  Individual component analyses are available now – LG Inform plus.   We will be developing an intuitive interface for users to create their own small area reports for release within the next few months.

We will also be keen to work with interested organisations to make use of the direct data feed via the LG Inform API and will be developing promotional material and case studies to show its value in coming months.  We will offer special extra support to early adopters and we will start to develop an online community of technical developers working and sharing together.

Q Can you describe how the LG Inform API works and where people can get more information about it?

LG Inform and LG Inform Plus are both built in two parts, an application that takes data and transforms them into understandable presentations as reports, graphs and charts and a powerful online data engine (shared by both LG Inform and LG Inform Plus) that takes data from original sources, validates, normalises, processes and computes derivatives and then hosts and delivers specific detail to the calling applications via web services amazingly quickly. 

The direct data feed in LG Inform Plus via an application programmable interface (API) responds to the great interest that has been expressed in recent months by many specialist information managers and developers requiring more flexible access to the LG Inform data engine.  The API allows direct online connection to the LG Inform data sources so that they can drive other applications, corporate or local information systems, desktop spread sheets and other data initiatives emerging within the public sector data transparency agenda.  Direct access will enable very fast delivery of specific data elements required to drive specific needs.  It will bypass the more generic and restricted limitations that are inevitable in LG Inform where we have had to balance wide ranging data analysis with an easy to use search and reporting capability.

The direct data feed is currently only available to subscribing councils and fire authorities but we are working up a commercial model to support access by other organisations and technical developers in the public and private sector.  An extended modest subscription model will be announced soon.

Q Can you let us know a bit about the small area profiles and how people can access these

Small area reporting within LG Inform Plus allows the assembly of many statistics being brought together to record the character and composition of communities and (through comparison) identify where areas of most need exist.  These statistics – sometimes individual metrics but often multiple metrics brought together for correlation and explanation purposes – can be assembled into reports.  These might be on a topical theme for a whole council or might be more generic and wide ranging for individual and groups of lower geographies like wards. 

LG Inform Plus provides the capability to create such small area reports, using the most up-to-date comparable data possible, as often as you wish.  Outputs can be shared online, emailed to other parties or transformed into pdf format for printing or as rich text format for loading into word processors such as MS Word for further expansion, part copying or formatting.

Q Many thanks Tim, that all sounds great, now after a long day working on LG Inform Plus which would you reach for? Large iced latte or tall iced tea

Neither – a cup of Earl Grey tea during the week and a large Glenmorangie malt whisky on Friday’s – my favourite night of the week!

Q What are you reading at the moment to unwind after a LG Inform filled day?

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling – deeply moving book that has twice reduced me to tears.

Many thanks Tim for all the information, as always very interesting and comprehensive. Please fine below some additional information about LG Inform plus, API and Small area profiles

LG Inform plus –

The data engine that drives LG Inform in providing strategic comparison data between councils and fire authorities is equally capable of handling more detailed information about activity within each organisation’s borders.  As substantial volumes of data are held at lower geography level – that is by wards or even lower like super output areas – it is possible to drill down from the strategic picture offered within LG inform to the finer granularity of intelligence showing how an organisations performance is built up.  LG Inform Plus aims to deliver this detail and flexibility.

In particular, the programme provides:

  • A capability to examine the contextual and performance measures within an organisation’s borders, providing information for each ward or lower where available through charts, tables and maps.  Public sector officers can use these to illustrate the make-up of their communities, or identify where there are pockets of need and where services are best delivered to improve outcomes.
  • A small area reporting capability allowing users to examine profiles of information on many themes either across the authority or on a ward by ward basis.  Additionally, topical themed reports will be prepared by the LGA.
  • Access to a direct data feed to the powerful and extensive LG Inform database via a published Application Programmable Interface (API) to feed corporate systems and local applications with data directly, bypassing the need for LG Inform and other LGA tools.
  • An online toolset that delivers other important services to support the work of information managers including: a new records retention guidance tool that details the legal and business requirements for councils to hold certain records and a powers and duties tool that presents the legal duty to deliver certain services and legal powers to deliver others for each type of English council. 
  • Flourishing technical working parties and facilitated events that develop future directions and governance of the information standards, online tools and data sets that support LG Inform/LG Inform Plus priorities.
  • You’ll see the suite of tools within LG Inform Plus from the LGA and other organisations grow as we get feedback from the community of participating councils.
  • A dedicated support team and online community of developers to help you make the most of the LG Inform Plus potential and direct data feeds from the API


LG Inform API –  

Access is secure.  Authorised users are issued with a security token that oversees their accreditation to use the data and monitors their use.  Organisations subscribing to LG Inform Plus are provided with a security token to give them this access.  Subscription levels will be based upon numbers of Gigabytes of use per month.

In time, we hope that security tokens may be procured under subscription by technical developers and other organisations once formal approval has been given by our board to expand our work into these new markets.  To encourage experimentation, we will offer technical developers and academic users free access at modest data volumes of transfer each month.

The API gives users the same access to back end data as the LGA’s own tools like LG Inform and LG Inform Plus.  They can read any value for any metric type for any relevant area and time period.  Lists and groups of metric types and areas are available with all the information you need to create your own charts and maps.  Calculated values can all be requested knowing the calculation logic has been checked via LGA quality assurance processes.  This is achieved by making calls using web services to the online data feed via their security key.  More details on the technical implementation and how to get involved is here:  http://api.esd.org.uk/   We trialled use of the API at a technical hackathon in March 2013 with great results – read about that here: http://www.esd.org.uk/esdtoolkit/News/NewsDetail.aspx?Item=757

Small area profiles

An optional novel feature of the LG Inform Plus small area reporting tool is the concept of including text tokens in any text narratives you might wish to include when building reports.  These work rather like mail merge fields within a text processor so that reports can be constructed carefully and sufficiently generically so that they will always be useful even as data feeds reflect updated data from the time of original creation.  Thus, for example, a council may be concerned in its narrative that “…the employment rate within Central ward increased this quarter to 16.2% of all households” whereas a future run of the report using the next periods data might automatically change to say that “… the employment rate within Central ward decreased this quarter to 14.9% of all households”.

Themed reports compiled by the LGA’s own Research and Information team are available for every English council and every individual ward.  Information is compared with wards in your region and nationally to highlight what is special about each area and help build a case for special funding bids.

Security level: Public

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