Transforming public services through smart use of GIS
In the rural county of Worcestershire, Esri’s ArcGIS platform is used extensively to help deliver better services for citizens, in the most cost-effective way. The council uses custom-made web mapping services to deliver specific GIS-based solutions to multiple internal departments, as well as partners and the general public.
Worcestershire is a predominantly rural county in the West Midlands. The county council formed the Worcestershire Hub in partnership with its six district councils, as the first point of contact for council services.
One award-winning GIS-based solution, Encompass, enables the council to work more efficiently in the management of rights of way
ArcGIS has been used to create a map of heat loss in the county, which helps educate citizens about the importance of insulation and informs fuel poverty measures
Another GIS-based initiative, Total Place, helps the local authority to work more cohesively with voluntary organisations across the county
The council wanted new and innovative ways to work with partner agencies, councils and the public, to deliver better services in a cost-effective way.
We wanted to see how we could make better use of our collective properties
Hayley Miles – Land Terrier Officer
Geography is the common denominator of council activities, so a central database now stores Geographical Information System (GIS) data that is used in the back office systems and custom-made web pages that underpin many projects: The 3,000 miles of footpaths, bridleways and byways were managed by separate teams. “Some used spreadsheets; others used a database. It was very difficult to get a single view of all rights of way information”, observes Philippa Jaine, Countryside Access GIS Management Officer. A new back office system, Encompass, now stores eight categories of data for every right of way, centrally.
Worcestershire is a pilot member of Total Place, UK-wide initiative to help local public service and voluntary organisations work more cohesively. “We wanted to see how we could make better use of our collective properties”, says Hayley Miles, Land Terrier Officer. Data from Total Place stakeholders was uploaded into the GIS. “We then worked with our GIS team to create a simple, secure web interface to this data, which each of our partners could access.”
“Warmer Worcestershire” was launched to tackle fuel poverty by enabling residents to see how much heat their property is losing. “Our GIS team created the map by overlaying a thermal night-time image of the county onto an Ordnance Survey map”, says Heather Lammas, Assistant Sustainability Officer.
The council had been accessing social care information as tables and lists from its Frameworki database, but it was difficult to cross reference this data and make decisions quickly in emergencies. The GIS team created an interface between Frameworki and its GIS. Individuals with care needs are now shown on an interactive, printable, map that is used to co-ordinate multi-agency responses.
I think the sheer variety of GIS-enabled projects we are working on at the council is testament to our belief in Esri technology and the benefits it can have in terms of public service delivery
Mark Smith – Worcestershire County Council’s GIS Team
The council works closely with districts to use resources and deliver services more effectively, and is sharing more information with the public online.
“ArcGIS Server is very reliable for us. It also makes it very easy to develop web interfaces”, says Mark Smith of the GIS team. “All the web applications we’ve built refer to the same core set of data, which ensures no duplication and that our work is accurate… We’ve also made it possible to edit this data on the fly. So if one person makes a change, a user of another application can be sure they’re using that same, updated data.”
Developing web-based interfaces is quick, cost-effective and flexible, without the additional licensing costs of developing desktop solutions. The council shares map data with districts through Web Mapping Services (WMS): “We simply broadcast it. It allows applications and other organisations to consume our maps and data without the need for further development”, explains Smith. The benefits are impressive and award-winning:
Encompass won the 2010 Innovation and Best Practice (Local Public Services) Award from the Association for Geographic Information. “Now we can see everything that relates to a right of way in a single location”, confirms Jaine. This means “we never do something like dig up a path one month only to have to re-dig it up the next”.
With Total Place, “We’ve identified opportunities for co-location of police and fire stations”, says Miles. “And by seeing where all available training facilities are, both public and private, it’s easy to share them and save costs or improve service.”
“Warmer Worcestershire” was an instant success, with a survey showing a quarter of respondents had heard of the project, of whom 30% had then insulated their loft, 21% had cavity wall insulation and 6.5% applied for heating grants. Emergency Planning Officer Mike Warner explains that the integration between Frameworki and GIS means “We can brief the right people very quickly. We can plan how we might handle something… We’re now partnering with other councils to show them how they can create the same system that we have.”
The council is using online GIS to inform and serve the public better: Staff and residents can view and log the precise location of problems. “Thanks to GIS access via the website, council staff can focus on other tasks”, says Smith.
“My Local Area” gives a simple, web-based view of everything in a locality, including reported faults, schools, leisure facilities, and areas of environmental importance.
In 2009, the council generated a live map of election results. “This is a perfect application of GIS, as it really made election progress easy to follow”, says Smith.
Local map data is now available online, overlaying new and old data. “Some of this data is hundreds of years old”, says Smith. “Putting it online through GIS aids research into our past, and shows clearly how these locations have developed over time.”