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Place matters – location joins up government

Published 25 November 2008

A new Strategy to tackle problems from traffic management to flooding, improved policy formulation and decision making by using better geographical information, was launched by Baroness Andrews today in a report Place Matters: The Location Strategy for the United Kingdom.

Too much crucial information about places in the United Kingdom and the public sector activities that occur at them are collected and stored in isolated documents and databases by councils, executive agencies and government, making it difficult to access, share and analyse that information.

The government policy announced today will enhance the information available for planning, for example, which communities require regeneration investment, where police should focus their resources or the best evacuation routes for different communities in the event of a flood.

The implementation of the Location Strategy will enable better risk management and better use of resources by introducing nationwide standards and support services for cataloguing information such as crime statistics, animal movements and disease information, air and noise pollution information and traffic congestion statistics.

The UK Location Strategy aims to simplify finding and using location data so that information can be accessed speedily to enhance decision-making.

Reducing the time taken to find, view, download and use location data the Strategy will also drive down costs and increase the ability to provide better public services.

Overall central government, local councils, police, the National Health Service, firefighters and members of the public will be able to access the information they need more efficiently, more quickly and with less expense.

Baroness Andrews said:

"Good maps and location intelligence can help determine how quickly our ambulances turn up, where a policeman patrols, how we act in a national emergency. Knowing more about where we live can help us make the best decisions.

"But across the country there is still too little sharing of the best practice and we are wasting time and money trying to find the information we need.

"The Location Strategy will ensure we make better use of information already held so we can use it faster and with less expense."

The Location Strategy sets out a Five-Point Action Plan for public services that will help them to:

  • know what data we have and avoid duplicating it
  • use common reference data so we know we are talking about same places
  • share the data easily through common technology, standards and business relationships
  • gain the appropriate skills to support its use
  • drive strong governance to enable change which will be led by the Location Council which is being set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Vanessa Lawrence CB, Chair of the UK Geographic Information Panel and Ordnance Survey's Director General and Chief Executive, said:

"Everything from planning national security and flood prevention to orchestrating your local rubbish collection is underpinned by an understanding of 'place'.

"As 'everything happens somewhere' it is clear that place-based information underpins our daily lives; many services depend upon a knowledge of 'place'. Geographical information is a major decision-making tool and this Strategy sets out the principles which will enable the UK economy to benefit more fully from its use.

"Through the UK Location Strategy the GI Panel has used its expertise to show local councils and government how to make best use of this information. We believe it will bring enormous benefits to the UK and allow more efficient use of geographic information."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will now take this Strategy forward through the UK Location Council. The Council will meet for the first time on Friday 28 November and will continue the work of the GI Panel which is today disbanded. 


Notes to editors

1. To view the full UK Location Strategy please visit www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/locationstrategy

2. The UK Geographic Information Panel was made up of senior individuals, representing key interest groups, to advise Ministers on the most effective use of digital geographic information (GI) across business and public services.

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