A look back on some of LGC’s digital innovations of 2018.
LGC has always sought to bring you hard-hitting news, analysis and comment but the way stories are told has changed and it continues to change.
Like the sector it serves, LGC has embraced digitisation and innovation. Over the last year our team has experimented to try and ensure the biggest issues are explored in entertaining yet meaningful ways.
Here we look back at some of our best interactive maps from 2018:
Councils have collectively spent almost £4bn making 223,000 staff redundant since 2010, LGC research revealed.
Our maps showed not only the regional impact of austerity, but the effect on individual areas too.
Key quote: Karen Grave, president of the Public Services People Managers Association, said: “The data that has been gathered on the number of jobs lost to local government since 2010 is staggering and it reflects the significant concern being expressed by local government and other leaders as to the pressure the sector is under.”
Continuing the workforce theme, more LGC research revealed how chief executives of London boroughs earn an average of more than £23,000 a year extra than their counterparts in other regions.
Our analysis of top-tier councils’ lead officer roles also shows men are most likely to hold chief executive roles and get paid on average about £3,000 a year more than women.
Key quote: Geoff Winterbottom, principal research officer at the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities which represents northern councils, said: “That fact that executives in London earn more is not exactly a surprise, but it is disappointing. They don’t face greater difficulties or challenges, they don’t handle bigger budgets. So we know that there is a very high cost of living in London but intuitively you can’t think that they would have to offer that much more to attract an appropriate talent pool.”
The lifting of the housing revenue account borrowing cap has been lauded as one of the most significant developments for the sector in recent times. But experts have warned that this move alone is unlikely to lead to a revolution in housebuilding.
There are 163 stock-holding councils in England, holding a combined £2.8bn in reserves in their housing revenue accounts and the ability to borrow almost 10 times that. As of April 2017, those councils held a total debt limit of £29bn – of which 89% was used – with many councils claiming the cap was limiting their ability to build.
LGC mapped the areas with a HRA to test a hypothesis that many councils with a HRA tend to be located in urban areas and therefore tend to lack the land required for housing.
Key quote: John Fuller (Con), chair of the District Councils’ Network, argued additional financial capability should be created for councils without a HRA to help where “registered social landlords just aren’t taking up the slack”.
“I’m not going to [hypothetically] call it the IRA – the infrastructure revenue account – but we do need a bucket that can deliver limited borrowing and not affect councils’ general funds,” he said.
More housing research, but from earlier in the year, showed how the proportion of new homes built in the green belt in 2016-17 doubled compared to the previous year.
The proportion of those new homes built on previously developed land also decreased from 57% to 51% year-on-year.
The analysis uncovered how 41% of all new homes in Purbeck DC in Dorset were built on green belt land in 2016-17, despite the fact only 20% of its area is in green belt.
Key quote: Purbeck’s leader Gary Suttle (Con) said the council had been forced to build in these areas due to a “pressing need for more affordable homes” which had to be balanced against “very constrained” space issues.
He said: “Given the significant biodiversity constraints in parts of the district, when examining the local plan, the independent examiner agreed with the council’s proposed development strategy that included releasing some green belt land. The sites were next to existing towns and villages and in the district and therefore well served by a range of facilities and services. None of the developments in previously designated green belt land has led to towns merging with one another.”
2018 has been a memorable year for many reasons but it was also the year when applications to create new unitary councils in Dorset and Buckinghamshire were approved, as well as district mergers in Suffolk and Somerset. Plans to create two new unitary councils in Northamptonshire are also well advanced.
At the beginning of the year LGC mapped where all of the rumours and rows about reorganisation were taking place.
Key quote: The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has stated in notes relating to restructuring in Northamptonshire unitaries should cover “a credible geography consisting of one or more existing local government areas” and have “a substantial population that at a minimum is substantially in excess of 300,000”.
No round-up of LGC maps would be complete without the go-to guide for everyone in local government: LGC’s Council Control Map.
Updated after the elections on 4 May this year, the map shows the political makeup of every council and combined authority in England.
LGC is looking forward to telling more stories in visual ways in 2019!
By David Paine, acting news editor