Developing indicators of the effect of geodemographic factors on cost and performance of public services

The Countryside Agency, London

Tribal Secta, 2004

An important component of funding for local authorities relates to population distribution and settlement patterns – often referred to as the sparsity component. The indicators of sparsity that have been applied in the past have normally been related to ratios of area sizes and relevant population numbers. This project – sponsored by the Countryside Agency – explored a range of possible indicators and related these measures to the costs of service provision.

A sample of local authority districts was investigated and the costs of service provision identified for ten services – ranging from social services through to road maintenance. These costs were then related to a range of geographical measures derived using the Excel MapPoint approach including nearest neighbour distances, radial distances from service centres, and settlement dispersion pattern measures in addition to the more usual sparsity indicators.

In general the findings have been that distance-based measures reflect the costs of most of the services studied more accurately than area size based measures. Alternative indicator values for all Local Authorities in England have been supplied to the ODPM (now DCLG) as part of the consultation process in relation to the latest comprehensive spending review.