Councillors – scrutiny and decision-making using numbers, data and statistics

This workshop for in-house booking covers:

  • the fundamentals of working with numbers, data and statistics
  • what questions to ask and when
  • how to identify the key issues

The workshop is for elected members and stakeholders from partner organisations. It draws on my fifteen years’ experience as an elected member on two major councils.

No statistical knowledge is required.

The workshop complements the one for local government officers on communicating with numerical information.

Workshop outcomes

The main topics you will learn about are:

  • how to be confident you have the information you need
  • what averages do and don’t tell you; and which average – mean, median and mode – to look at
  • how to interpret percentages and percentage points
  • targets and key performance indicators: how to keep an eye on the bigger picture; and get an early warning of going off course; trends and blips – what each is telling you
  • variation and uncertainty: margins of error, confidence intervals; knowing when a difference is or is not statistically significant
  • how to read tables, charts, graphs and infographics – what they can tell you and how not to be bamboozled
  • how surveys inform service delivery and development: the importance of representative samples, and the role of sample size; the problems with self-selecting surveys; what outlying responses do and don’t tell you


  • how to read reports effectively: sort the numerical wheat from the chaff by using highlighting and ‘lowlighting’
  • how to explain the reports to others – your constituents, and stakeholders
  • when it’s right to ask for more information or research before reaching a conclusion
  • how to involve the public in the process

How the workshop is run

The workshop is interactive throughout with a mix of presentation, group discussion and practical exercises. Workshops typically run for six hours including breaks; scheduling is flexible and according to the organisation’s needs.

The material is drawn from local government sources and similar. There is an option for workshop material to be tailored to material from your own authority.

Workshops are ideally limited to 16 attendees. This gives the most opportunity for all to contribute and for all points that arise to be covered effectively.

I will also be available after the formal course for an informal ‘surgery’ to discuss individual points of interest and concern.

Workshops can be repeated on a second day or third day. There is a discount for bookings of two or more workshop days. This can be a ‘mix and match’ with the workshop for local government officers.


These prices are for in-house one-day workshops for up to 16 attendees from the organisation. Open workshops are available from time to time for individual registration.

Single workshop: £755

Two workshops package: £1280

Three workshops package: £1700

Supplement for developing bespoke material: from £210 subject to requirements

Copies of supporting materials for each attendee are included.

Half-day (3 hours) workshop-lite: £480
– fewer topics covered
– fewer practical exercises

Bite-size talk: £235
– suitable for lunchtime or after work
– two or three topics covered of your choice
– one short practical exercise