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Tuesday 26th March 2013

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) wanted to engage with academic mathematicians and statisticians to address major policy challenges and to inform its decision-making. The Turing Gateway to Mathematics invited interested academics, and especially early career researchers, to take part in this one-day workshop at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge on 26 March 2013.

Generally, DCLG works to move decision-making power from central government to local councils. This helps put communities in charge of planning, increases accountability and helps citizens to see how their money is being spent.

Some of DCLG’s responsibilities include:

  • working with local enterprise partnerships and enterprise zones to help the public sector grow
  • making the planning system work more efficiently and effectively
  • supporting local fire and rescue authorities so that they are able to respond to emergencies and reduce the number and impact of fires

At the event, DCLG wanted to collaborate with academic mathematicians to address planning and policy-making challenges. The priority areas, that were presented at the workshop, included:



Homelessness is often considered to apply only to people who are ‘sleeping rough’. Most of DCLG’s homelessness statistics relate, however, to the statutorily homeless, i.e. those households which meet specific criteria of priority need set out in legislation, and to whom a homelessness duty has been accepted by a local authority. Such households are rarely homeless in the literal sense of being without a roof over their heads, but are more likely to be threatened with the loss of their current accommodation. DCLG envisaged that the mathematicians would try to identify any key mathematical relationships in the policy area of statutory homelessness, although there was some scope for exploring the related areas of rough sleeping and the ‘hidden homeless’ (people who are typically staying with family or friends), for which the data sources are more limited, particularly for the latter category.


Optimum Locations of National Resilience Assets

DCLG is supporting the Fire Emergencies and Resilience Directorate (FRED) in considering and defining any gaps between existing capabilities and the capabilities required to ensure national resilience. In particular, DCLG wanted help with:

  • Assessing whether any capability gaps could be filled through reconfiguration of existing capability or innovative solutions
  • Assessing costed options for how new capability could be built, taking into account the likelihood/impact of the risk and funding pressures
  • Analysis in support of policy colleagues DCLG Emergency Room during an emergency, e.g. to pre-position National Resilience assets; examples of emergencies include natural disasters, such as flooding and wild fires


Business Rates Income Pooling

Under the Business Rates Retention Scheme, Local Authorities can now pool their business rates income. DCLG wanted help in developing a model to simulate Local Authorities’ income levels on an annual basis. The data required to initially construct the model was already available but there were limitations on the types of the information available to simulate future income positions. For example, Local Authority income could be simulated using historic growth, but it was known that there was a large degree of volatility in business rates income so historic growth cannot predict future income. Therefore the model needed to consider the wide range of volatility and simulate growth scenarios to enable DCLG to undertake a sophisticated degree of scenario planning.

DCLG presented a discussion paper on each topic and invited academic contributors to suggest ideas for improvement of the current modelling practices. There was a parallel session for each topic, with the aim of the workhop being to identify potential areas for projects that could be taken forward collaboratively, for example, MSc projects, internships or other suitable collaborative mechanisms.