Data Science Collaboration project with Birmingham City Council

The Data Science collaboration project leverages data across Birmingham and beyond, empowering Birmingham City Council to make the best decisions based on the needs of their constituents.


Birmingham City Council Team
  • Henry Griffiths (Head of Data, Development and SAP ERP)
  • Nigel Sharratt (BI and Data Operations Manager)

Research background

Following the successful collaboration between Birmingham City University (BCU) and Birmingham City Council (BCC) on the Big Data Corridor, both partners agreed to work on a longer term partnership. The Data Science Collaboration (DSC) project is an ongoing BCC-BCU funded initiative which started as part of the council’s Data programme in October 2019 and is currently focused on a Data as a Service (DaaS) approach. DSC empowers the council to harness data and deploy Business Intelligence to produce actionable information and insight with the aim to make better informed strategic and tactical decisions and target resources appropriately.

Research aims

The DSC project aims to make better use of customer vision and business intelligence to ensure informed government decision policy and the appropriate deployment of resources.  In the ICT Development Strategy of 2016 insight was recognised by the council as a key theme “… becoming more data centric so BCC can create the capability of turning information into insight”.

Areas that are identified by the council Information Management (IM) Strategy as needing improvement and are required to be delivered as part of the project include:

  • Operating Model: Implement and manage a single data resource across the council Directorates and Services.
  • Culture: Support the access and availability of information among different council service management teams
  • Processes: Ensure timely and efficient deployment of resources
  • Data Quality: Ensure quality is consistent and always accessible and available

The fundamental principle embedded within the Information Management strategy is to make all council and any required external open data available for information provisioning in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

The DSC team follows the 3 Pillars agreed Methodology set by the Data Programme:

  • Insight: defines business insight needs, identify datasets and tools selection and apply analytics
  • Security: encrypt data, configure audit logs and apply access rights
  • Assurance: define assets, Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA)

The collaboration is focused on developing the council strategic capabilities through enabling evidence driven decision making outcomes. Including an established technology enabling environment with support for a single entity focus, data classification, efficiency and optimisation in information provision. Hence increasing value through data analytic capabilities, strong data and information governance and business culture change in data management and use.

Research methods

The project involves collaboration with the council on several related city projects based on a series of use cases aiming to deliver immediate business value quickly, through an agile, iterative process consisting of 5 stages: Discovery, Design, Alpha, Beta, Live.

The BCC-BCU DSC work is focusing on the following Use Cases:

0-19 Needs Analysis in Birmingham

A data-driven analysis of the needs and experience of Children and Young People (CYP) aged from conception to 19 years (and 25 years, SEND) in addition to families living in Birmingham. The analysis provides an overview on CYP in Birmingham and covers objectives related to the following themes: conception, pregnancy, infant mortality, early years < 5yrs, primary, secondary, CYP with additional needs and challenges (SEND, YOS/YOT, child poverty). It also presents a regional, national, and core cities comparison on each of these objectives (where data is available). The purpose was to gain an insight and understanding necessary to develop an effective commissioning strategy and priorities for 0-19 Healthy Child Programme.     

Strategic Needs Analysis of young people (0-19 25) in Birmingham

A data driven analysis of the needs and experience of children living in Birmingham based on an established cause-effect model representation of influencing factors. The analysis covers multiple themes including domestic abuse, serious youth violence, contextual safeguarding, school exclusions, homelessness, and mental health. The purpose was to gain the insight and understanding necessary for the Senior Delivery Group (SDG) of the Birmingham Children’s Partnership (BCP) to develop an effective partnership strategy and priorities.

The Impact of Covid-19 on Health and Wellbeing

An investigation of the health and well-being impact of COVID-19 based on a case study of West Midlands in addition to utilising Linear Regression modelling and correlation analysis to examine the influence of COVID-19 economic and social impacts on the well-being of citizens. The output from our research was used by the council to support decision-making and to direct provisioning of services.

The Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Birmingham Businesses and Citizens

An analysis of business creations and closures in Birmingham and the effects of Covid-19 economic crisis on these. The analysis also predicts business closures for different enterprise sectors and geographical areas and finds possible correlations with unemployment rates for these areas.

The Ripple-Effect of both points above

This use case is focused on investigating the ripple effect of the Covid-19 crisis on the economy including businesses and individuals (as either employees or employers) and its consequences on their mental health and well-being.

Traffic and Air Quality monitoring and prediction from council sensors data collected in the Clean Air Zone (CAZ), Ring Road and wider city

The objective is to capture, store and visualise air-quality and traffic data to identify seasonal trends and correlations between traffic, air-quality, and events in the city that can affect these (e.g. a concert in the city or Bonfire Night). This project combines data captured from around 120 air-quality sensors (automatic air-quality monitoring units, indicative air-quality sensors, and diffusion tubes) and 340 traffic sensors (induction loops, and ANPR - Automatic Number Plate Recognition sensors*) installed across Birmingham local authority area.  In addition, the project has specific focus on measuring the impact of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) that was introduced in Birmingham on June 2021 in terms of air-quality and traffic in different parts of the city such as the CAZ, the Ring Road that surrounds it, and the Wider City area. *All sensor data used in this project do not contain any personal information and are anonymised.

Housing Conditions

Profile Housing across Birmingham against 6 criteria (low housing demand, significant and persistent anti-social behaviour, poor housing conditions, high levels of migration, high levels of deprivation, high levels of crime) and compare it with the national average. This project uses both council and open data with the aim to improve the efficiency of council planning services, consider the release of resources, and set out future strategies to proactively tackle poor housing conditions.

The East Birmingham Sprint

East Birmingham has multiple issues such as: deprivation, education, social and neighbourhood segregation, employment, housing and homelessness, marginalised and disadvantaged young people, and mental health. It is a huge geographical area with wards and neighbourhoods having diverse characteristics. In this project, we use data from different sources (including the council, social media, and other organisations in the public sector, in addition to open-source data) to provide comprehensive understanding of the issues associated with this disadvantaged area of Birmingham. The main aim of this project is to allow the council to make better informed decisions and improve the living conditions of people in East Birmingham.  

Performance Management Matrix

The current reporting methods (including monthly performance reporting to the Council Leadership Team and quarterly performance reporting to the council’s Cabinet) are time consuming; data is static, manually handled, hard to get hold of, and is mostly held in spreadsheets. The 2019/20 Council Plan Measures consist of 6 Outcomes and 81 Performance Indicators to be approved at the Cabinet.

The aim of this use case is to:

  • improve performance management reporting for the council
  • improve and speed up the collation and visualisation of performance data and provide the ability to use and present Council performance indicators in an interactive and dynamic way.
  • drive an insight culture through making performance data more relevant to decision makers through developing front-end dashboards for performance reporting.

Audience for the performance management matrix use case include Cabinet Members, Council Leadership Team (chief executive and directors), and Extended Leadership Team. In addition, we have support from the head of Business Improvement and Change at the council to discuss, shape, and evaluate the work we are doing on this project.

Projected outcomes

Supporting the council to evolve into a data driven insight led organisation by driving the adoption of the function, tools, and techniques to derive actionable insight from data. This will include the people, process, and tooling to support both Data Life Cycle Management and Business intelligence competency centre.

Service needs to be fast, cost effective and reliable. Thus, the need to provide an infrastructure to enable:

  • data driven models and service design
  • timely and efficient access to key information
  • reduction in cost and staff time
  • better data quality and improved communications
  • Improved services delivery and business outcomes

This will also encompass data governance, organisational change, and technology adoption to embed data science capabilities within the business intelligence competency centre at the council.

Links to publications