As we limber up for the next nail biter of a benchmark club (will it be finished in time ? will enough councils sign up ?) I’ve taken a little time out to think about how we could group councils.
Benchmarking works by allowing participants to choose who they want to be compared to. By and large, people seem to pick people they know (their neighbours) and don’t tend to pick far-off places even though they may actually be similar. One question I was asked quite a lot was “can you tell us who we are like ?”.
A tale of 21 families
Some time ago I had a block of data that listed each council, their count of applications and average house price. At the time I think we were considering a view that house prices were some kind of function of (residential) planning demand and that volume was (all things considered) a reasonable proxy for size.
I banded these figures into ranges:
- House price is H0 (high) to H4 (low)
- Application count is A0 (lots) to A4 (few)
Thus a family might be described as “H3 A1” – this would group together quite large planning authorities in areas of relatively cheap housing.
Additionally I created a couple of “special” families for counties and national parks. I considered making one just for London, but inner and outer london boroughs are quite different to each other.
Families are not perfect
This approach creates families that are scattered all over the place, and some bands have very small or very large populations. For example, “H4 A1” had a single District member. “H2 A3” had fifteen.
I then flexed them, shuffling people around by a one banding up or down to try and create a centre of gravity for the family. In my mind was the certain knowledge that sign-up will never be 100% and that a family could (probably ‘should’) decide to have a large virtual group – for the production of reports etc – and a smaller actual face-to-face component.
What does this look like ?
To kill two birds with one stone, I have attached a list of all the authorities along with whether they had signed up the last time I took a look. Overall, there are about a fifth of all councils signed up already.
The ‘best’ group is “H0 A2” – with 8 members of the family on board. The worst is “H0 A4” with only a single member.
As a Londoner, I have almost entirely non-existent geographical knowledge of the rest of England. Even after working at PAS for 5 years and spending a fair lump of time in the regions it still makes much less sense to me than SE27. I will have made foolish mistakes and a few places will need swapping around.
I’m hoping councils can use the list to encourage the rest of their family to join. More siblings = more chance of finding someone to work with, both during the benchmark itself but just as importantly afterwards.
Take a look. Let me know what you think. See this as a set of relationships that can go beyond your traditional county or city region groups. And think up some nicknames. “H0 A4” – you are the snooty group.