West Sussex County Council's performance figures unveiled

Louise Goldsmith

Louise Goldsmith

First published in News Exclusive by

A new internet programme, which shows West Sussex County Council’s live performance data, has been unveiled.

The information covers three sectors, dealing with education, the economy and supporting the elderly.

It reveals the council is failing to hit more than half of its targets in a sub-section entitled “Giving Children the Best Start in Life”.

This includes pupils’ achievements at Key Stage 2 and at GCSE, which are below the targets the council has set as well as the national average.

The average Ofsted rating of schools and the council’s own children’s services are also below targets.

But the local authority is hitting targets with regards to the economy, with more than 5,500 apprentices in the county and six new businesses attracted to the area this year following support from the council.

Councillor Louise Goldsmith, West Sussex County Council leader, explained the decision behind the open data.

She said: “It’s about us being totally transparent and using brand new technology to make that happen.

“To be able to offer something where residents can see our performance in real time is a big step forward and one we’re proud of.”

“We want to do the very best for our residents and deliver really good services, this system helps us with that ambition.”

The computer platform can be accessed on the West Sussex County Council website.

It cost the council £20,000 overall to create.

Each individual target is given a colour code to show how the council is performing. Green is used for categories where the council is on target, yellow for near a target and orange for where it is failing.

Coun Goldsmith added: “By the nature of the type of information that’s in there, not everything will be green and we’re certainly not in the business of inventing easy targets so that we can have a dashboard that's filled entirely with green indicators.

“That doesn’t represent real life at all or the complexity of the service we offer.

“It brings an honest focus to the services we are not providing as effectively as we could or in comparison with other areas of the country and this helps our residents hold us to account.

“Moving from paper to digital and giving residents the opportunity to see our performance at the same time opens our accountability and gives us a very visual way of explaining how and what we’re doing for our residents and communities and where and how we are spending the council tax.”

She added that the platform, which is called GovSat, would allow the council to set a benchmark against other local authorities in the area and show where they are performing better or worse.

GovSat has been developed by Socrata, a Seattle-based company whose clients include The World Bank, The United Nations Development Programme and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Beth Blauer, Socrata’s director of GovSat, said: “West Sussex is joining an elite group of governments using the best technology available to track outcomes of their efforts, with total transparency to the public.

“The era of open government has arrived and it is here to stay.”

Since the launch of the programme, it has received thousands of hits, with people keen to view the live performance data.

Coun Goldsmith said: “This is a brand new model and as such we’re adding to it all the time.

“We have taken an old system of reporting our performance and brought it into a digital age that makes it accessible to everyone.”

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