The high-profile failure of public authorities to both safeguard Baby Peter in Haringey, and prevent the high number of deaths in Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, has directed attention to the accuracy and reliability of the data underpinning local service delivery.
It is not a matter of quantity; we have more data about services than we can realistically use. Yet the public lacks trust in the institutions that govern and serve it - and this mistrust extends to the information they provide.
The Audit Commission exists to reassure the public that local public bodies are spending their money well and achieving positive outcomes in local communities. The Commission has a role in assessing the quality of data in local public services and we have made a public promise to help improve it.
This paper sets out important issues as the basis for discussion on how to ensure data about local public services is fit for purpose. It asks if citizens, along with frontline staff, managers, politicians, central government and local public service regulators, can have confidence in the data they rely on. And if not, what needs to be done about it?