Community Needs Index 2023

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In 2018, we were commissioned by Local Trust to develop a quantitative measure of left behind neighbourhoods, as part of this research we developed the Community Needs Index, which measures the cultural and social factors that can impact upon people’s outcomes.

The Community Needs Index has really resonated with policymakers and analysts across central government, local government and civil society organisations. The research has contributed to the formation of the APPG for left behind neighbourhoods, has been used to allocate resources for the Know your Neighbourhood Fund and we have worked with organisations to do a deep dive into the Community Needs Index for their area.

Following engagement with key stakeholders and a wider consultation, we are pleased to have refined the index for 2023. We have reviewed the geography, underlying indicators and weighting methodology used. Full details are available in the Technical Methodology Paper, with a summary of key changes available here.

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The Community Needs Index is an area based measure. Both experiences of the people in an area and the area’s amenities and assets contribute to its “community need” characteristics.

In the first iteration of the Community Needs Index we used 2017 Wards as the underlying geography. The justification being Wards tend to be centred around existing neighbourhoods, they are a familiar geography to people and they have names attached to them.

However, there are challenges with using Wards as a geography. Wards change on an annual basis. To provide some context, 28.2% of the wards used in the first iteration of the Community Needs Index have now changed. Wards also vary in size quite dramatically and there are fewer datasets that are published directly at Ward level. 

To mitigate this, Community Needs Index 2023 uses 2021 LSOAs as the underlying geography. This was favoured by 58.3% of respondents to the consultation. LSOAs offer a number of advantages over wards. Most notably, they only change every 10 years (and even then, only around 5% of areas change). They are also more homogenous in size and as they are usually smaller than wards, are better placed to identify needs in rural areas.

However, this means that the Community Needs Index 2019 and Community Needs Index 2023 are not directly comparable and can not be analysed to show change over time.

Indicator selection

For the Community Needs Index 2023, we have reviewed the underlying indicators to assess whether they:

  • Are still appropriate measures
  • Can be updated 
  • Can be strengthened

Where possible we have maintained consistency with indicators from 2019, simply updating data to the most recent time-point when available.

In some cases we have replaced indicators if more up-to-date or robust indicators were available from alternative sources. We have also added some new indicators, where they can strengthen the index by capturing a different facet of community need. 

New and replacement indicators

Below is a summary of new indicators that have been included in Community Needs Index 2023. For full details of the underlying indicators, please see pages 10 – 21 in the Technical Methodology Paper.

Community Assets domain

  • Density of sport and leisure assets – Sport England
  • Green assets – Friends of the Earth
  • Retail assets – AddressBase
  • Community Owned Assets – Renaisi / Plunkett Foundation / Locality

Connectivity domain

  • Access to Green/Blue Space – CDRC
  • Job access score – UK Onward (replaces Jobs Density measure)
  • Digital Exclusion Risk Index (DERI) score – Greater Manchester Office of Data Analytics (replaces Broadband measure)
  • Self reported loneliness – Community Life Survey
  • GP Access Score – NHS England

Active and Engaged Community domain

  • Civic participation – Community Life Survey
  • Neighbourhood cohesion – Community Life Survey (replaces Strength of local social relationships)
  • Estimates of social trust – UK Onward
  • Residential Mobility Index – CDRC
  • Short term population turnover – Census 2021
  • Third sector organisations – Charities Commission, Co-operatives UK, Companies House, Financial Conduct Authority
  • Small businesses: Local Business Units with 0 – 4 employees – Inter Departmental Business Register (IDBR)


A crucial part of developing an index is making decisions on how indicators will be weighted and there are a number of approaches for this.

The first iteration of the Community Needs Index gave an equal weighting to each of the indicators in a domain.

The Community Needs Index 2023 uses Maximum Likelihood Factor Analysis to determine the weights of the indicators within each domain. Maximum Likelihood Factor Analysis can uncover the hidden factors that influence indicators and help understand how they relate to each other. More detail on the methodology can be found on pages 26 – 32 of the Technical Methodology Paper. 

In order to use this technique, the Connectedness domain was split into two sub-domains (physical connectivity, wider connectivity) as was the Active and engaged community domain (Civic participation, Civic activity). 

The Community Needs Index can be accessed exclusively within Local Insight. Find out more 

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