Solace Blog

Is yours an Intelligent Council?

By Neil Wholey, Head of Evaluation and Performance, Westminster City Council, Chair of LARIA (Local Area Research and Intelligence Association) and Deputy Solace Spokesperson on Evidence Based Policy

There are a huge range of opportunities for local authorities to use robust evidence to inform decisions. Our workshop at the Solace Summit will explore the idea of an ‘Intelligent Council’ with the aim to set out what an excellent evidence based organisation looks like. It will cover issues as diverse as big data, social research, consultation, scrutiny and service transformation. 


The workshop on the 2nd November will be based on the initial findings from the Intelligent Council project led by the LGA. The aim of the project is to develop a framework for councils to assess their current position and understand the benefits of evidence-informed decision making. This will aid decisions on the level of resources and skills needed based around the types and use of evidence each local authority would find helpful to develop. We are not looking for a one-sized fits all approach, rather to showcase the menu of options open to local authorities to be an Intelligent Council.

The project has currently been informed through a series of interviews and discussions with Council Leaders, Chief Executives, senior managers and researchers themselves. The LGA’s work is being supported by Solace and LARIA which helps to draw together those using and developing evidence. At the Solace Summit workshop we need the help of participants to prioritise the areas we should work on together in 2018 and beyond.

Discussion of the emerging findings of the project will be followed by examples from Manchester and Westminster on the practical application of evidence. We will also be opening up the discussion to the currently over fifty attendees to the workshop drawn from across the country and the full range of local authority types. We will also be discussing the findings at the LARIA conference the following week which many local authority researchers will be attending.

Initial findings suggest that local authorities are able to use evidence to help them become more efficient, responsive, trusted and resilient. The best examples seem to be where we work across the public sector as a whole and within individual organisations cutting through silos. An Intelligent Council is one that can doesn’t just make evidence based decisions itself, but can also help develop the practice and skills in others. It is a collective intelligence across the sector which we need to encourage. Our response and support as a sector for the Intelligent Council project will ensure we have the right skills and resources in place to fulfil this potential.