New report sheds more light on West Midlands geography

In the public sector, many of our policies, strategies and services follow administrative boundaries such as regions, local authorities, police force areas, primary care trusts or even wards.

But out there in the real world, people don’t live their lives as neatly as that. Many people live in one place and work, learn or shop in others. Businesses too have customers and suppliers from many different places.

Whilst every person, and every business is different, understanding the patterns in these kinds of links between places is important.

For example, when analysing the local labour market it is no good just looking at the people who live locally if many local workers come from elsewhere.

Understanding “functional geographies” has always been important but the issue’s profile has been raised in recent times as government has sought to devolve more responsibility for economic development to sub-regional and local areas.

Over the next year all upper tier and unitary local authorities will need to produce Local Economic Assessments. Government guidance says that these will need to “identify the economic linkages within the area assessed and between it and the wider economy.”

In preparation for this, the Observatory has just published a report looking at some of the key sub-regional links between places in the West Midlands.

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2011 Census Output Geography Consultation

Office for National StatisticsThe Office for National Statistics (ONS) are holding a consultation on the 2011 Census Output Geography policy.

Dr Ray Perrins from the South West Observatory has volunteered to respond on behalf of the Association of Regional Observatories.

There are three main topics:

  1. A new geography for improved reporting of business statistics and statistics relating to the workplace
  2. An upper layer of Super Output Areas (USOAs)
  3. A request for exceptional instances of current Output Areas and Super Output Areas, as designed for 2001, that do not fit present criteria for statistical zones

However, the consultation also provides an opportunity for you to comment on any aspect of the current 2011 Census Output Geography policy.

If you’re involved in the Regional Observatories and would like anything to be included in any response from the Association of Regional Observatories, please contact Dr Ray Perrins at the South West Observatory. Please get responses to Ray by Monday, 22nd March 2010.

However, the consultation is open to everyone, including members of the public. ONS suggest on their site that:

Government departments, unitary, county and district councils, metropolitan boroughs and other large census user organisations should discuss their requirements internally before making a joint submission.

How to make a submission and contact details are available on the ONS consultation page.

An introduction to geographic information and why it’s important

Brian Higgs from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council gave a presentation about the importance of geographical information (GI) at the Geographical Information Day, hosted by the Observatory on 18th November 2009.

Brian introduced the concept of geographical information and demonstrated practical examples of how GI is used within Dudley MBC. Here’s Brian’s presentation which includes the audio and slides:

Can’t see the presentation? View the video on Viddler.com or get the PowerPoint slides (ppt, 12.7mb).

Local names for Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs)

A member of the West Midlands Regional Data and Intelligence Network has raised a query with us about local names for Middle Layer Super Output Areas or MSOAs (find an explanation of what super output areas are below).

Each MSOA is identified by a nine character code (for example E02000001). The Office for National Statistics gave all Local Authorities the opportunity to provide “local names” to give local meaning to these MSOA codes, examples of which you will find in this document (XLS, 852KB).

From the West Midlands, only Walsall, Sandwell and Shropshire have provided these local names. Can anyone shed light on the others?

I’m looking for approved names that are in use by Local Authorities. Please email me if you can help – I’ll post updates here.

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Map competition for schools

We’re holding a competition for school children to make a map of their local area, being as creative as possible. Glitter, egg boxes, crayons, pens, felt and sticky back plastic; whatever you want!

Up for grabs in prizes are:

  • A digital camera, software and printer package for the winning class or school.
  • An atlas.
  • The winning artwork will feature on our website.

The competition is being held in association with ESRI UK to tie in with the West Midlands Geographical Information Day we’re currently planning for the 19 November 2008.

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