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Recovery from Covid-19 at the local level: Using data to inform decision-making

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Over a year has passed since the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK entered its first lockdown. The pandemic has had a severe impact on the UK economy with GDP declining 9.9 per cent during 2020. With multiple vaccines available and the UK vaccination programme proceeding at pace, the UK government has set out its roadmap for easing restrictions. This will enable many economic activities to restart. However, the pace of economic recovery is uncertain and is likely to vary across localities.

This paper is intended to help local policy-makers monitor the recovery in their local area. It provides suggestions about datasets that can be used to understand what is happening at the local level, alongside suggestions about things to consider when analysing them.

Monitoring local economic recovery

It will be important for local policy-makers to monitor the recovery in their economies. This will allow them to target their efforts on supporting those sectors, localities and population groups that are recovering more slowly. For example, monitoring mobility trends will allow local authorities to understand which locations have returned to pre-Covid-19 levels of activity and which may need additional support. The data requirements will vary across local areas. This paper covers three key topics that we think local areas should consider monitoring over the short to medium term:

  • Mobility
  • Labour market
  • Covid-19 data

These topics have been chosen, in part, because timely data is available that allow trends to be monitored in near-to-real-time. There are many other topics (for example, business closures) that would be extremely useful to track but where no timely dataset exists.

We describe several datasets under each topic. Looking at a range of datasets and indicators will help local areas to build a more detailed understanding of what is happening in their area. In addition, as all datasets have their limitations, having multiple datasets covering the same topic should help improve decision-making.

This section concludes by setting out a range of other resources that local policymakers may wish consult.

Planning for the longer term

In addition to monitoring the recovery over the short to medium term, many local policy-makers are looking to develop longer-term recovery plans for their economies. These will need to respond to the impact Covid-19 on their local economy, and address other policy priorities including ‘levelling up’ and net zero.

These plans should reflect the composition, strengths and weaknesses of local economies and data will play a key part in developing this understanding. To assist with this, the paper makes recommendations about data sources that may be useful for longer-term recovery planning.

We have also previously published guidance on using data for local economic policy and we encourage local areas to make use of this as part of their longer-term strategic planning.

How to make best use of data

We encourage local policy-makers to put in place processes to ensure that the data is feeding into decision-making processes. This includes ensuring it feeds into existing decision-making structures, such as the Skills Advisory Panels. We also recommend publishing your analysis. This will help others in your local area (for example, universities, colleges and training providers, businesses, third sector organisations, etc.) to make informed decisions.

Responding to issues identified by data analysis

Analysis of relevant and timely data can help identify the key issues that need addressing within a local economy. When developing policies to address these challenges, we recommend that drawing on the literature about ‘what works’. What Works Growth has published evidence reviews and toolkits on many local economic policies that will be relevant to the recovery.


In June 2020, we published an overview of data that we thought would be useful to local policy-makers in tracking the impact of Covid-19 on their local economies. This briefing reflected the data available, understanding of Covid-19 and economic position at the time. Whilst we encourage readers to use the new paper as it better reflects the current position, the June 2020 will continue to be available for download.


Recovery from Covid-19 at the local level using data to inform decision-making
Covid-19 data sources to inform local economic recovery