Performance management: technocratic twaddle?

The National Indicator Set (NIS) is designed to offer government (at all levels) and its agents and partners a common framework for assessing conditions, and change in those conditions, across England.

Over recent months in the Commission for Rural Communities we have undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the potential to disaggregate the whole NIS to a below local area agreement (LAA) geographic level, in order to help performance management of delivery. This should include performance management of delivery to localities and neighbourhoods, both urban and rural, to help secure proportionate delivery of LAA targets to rural and other local communities.

LAAs cover large areas and the use of indicators at the LAA scale can mask great variation in policy needs and outcomes. Working with and delivering successfully to communities and to neighbourhoods requires intelligence at a finer spatial level.

 The project findings show that around two-thirds of the NIS can be reported at lower spatial levels, specifically:

  • local authority district – which will be important in two tier areas, where the LAA operates at the county level
  • rural/urban – whether the indicator data could be matched to the official definition of urban and rural areas (using one of wards, postcodes, grid references or lower or middle super output areas)
  • neighbourhood – whether the indicator data is available at or could be matched to wards or some similarly sized locality geography.

As part of the project, through our consultants, Rural Innovation, we have worked with Essex, Cumbria and Devon county councils, to analyse the extent to which the NIS can, in a practical way, be disaggregated to below the LAA level.

In addition, the more local authorities take this approach the more likely it is that this will help councillors and communities, and voluntary and community sector bodies, by providing them with information about performance at the local and neighbourhood level.

We’ve also produced a how to guide ‘Locality Reporting: Spatial disaggregation of the National Indicator Set’ which explains further the relevance of sub-LAA indicators and provides some commentary about the extent to which this is feasible. It also includes experiences of the three case studies. We really hope that this project will be of practical interest to local authorities and their partners responsible for monitoring the delivery of LAA targets. And of wider interest to local strategic partnerships and local councillors and that the results of this project will be a useful tool for other organisations as well.

These reports and NIS tables are available at:


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