The Sun Rises Over Royal Portbury Docks In Somerset
Using geographic 'keys' at Royal Portbury Docks in Somerset opened up a "new horizon of data analysis" for North Somerset Council

How geospatial data is helping local authorities target revenue

 | 

EMMA GORDON

Councils across the UK rely on information from hundreds of different sources, but it’s when you add location data into the mix that, according to geospatial data management firm GeoPlace, the magic happens.

Every property in the country has a unique property reference number, or UPRN, and Ordnance Survey gives it an exact location. These geographic ‘keys’ can be used to link people across multiple datasets, such as NHS, national insurance and driving licence numbers, to just one reference point — location.

The London-based company says this is crucial for understanding things like population characteristics, what support communities need, and how to target resources properly.

Emphasising this point at the GeoPlace annual conference last year, Eddie Copeland, director of government innovation in the Innovation Lab at global innovation foundation NESTA, said: “Data delivers value when it is linked and it is shared. The future of local government, the future of public services, the future of our communities depends on this — connecting data for better outcomes. For that you need UPRNs, they are absolutely vital.”

In this case study, we take a look at 2 examples where GeoPlace has worked with local authorities to make a difference using these reference numbers.

Who is GeoPlace?

Geoplace is a limited liability partnership jointly owned by the Local Government Association and Ordnance Survey. It acts as a “central source” for UK addresses and street information, including UPRNs.

The company works with all 348 councils in England and Wales and manages a central hub of 42 million addresses and 1.39 million streets, taking feeds from councils, central government, Royal Mail and the Scottish, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Island governments.

Identifying untapped revenue streams

For North Somerset Council, that information made a multi-million-pound difference.

Starting in 2015, the authority used UPRNs to match records in different databases together to, amongst other things, identify additional business rates and council tax revenue streams. This work also included overlaying verified data from third parties including orders for commercial waste bins.

Royal Portbury Docks, on the boundary of the council’s area was the subject of some confusion about which local authority should provide services and collect rates. Attributing UPRNs, North Somerset confirmed the £7m business rates due, while also improving the quality of its datasets to make tax collection easier across the borough in future.

A spokesperson for the council said: “GIS [geographic information systems technology] is an enabler that allows data from multiple systems to be merged together into one spatially linked thread of data. This new process of working enables spatially linked data to open up a new horizon of data analysis and the outcome of this has aided in highlighting fraud.”

Denbighshire

Geospatial data has helped Denbighshire County Council in Wales to make sure landlords are complying with energy performance legislation

Making tenants’ lives easier

And in Wales, when regulations relating to private rented properties and energy performance changed earlier this year, Denbighshire County Council had a decision to make.

From April, an EPC — which essentially maps out a property’s energy efficiency — must now be provided for every house built, sold or rented. And with continuation of existing tenancies restricted if a rental has a low EPC of F or G, the authority decided to look at ways of improving housing for residents by making sure local landlords were complying with this legislation.

The county council used UPRN data together with information from a central landlord licensing authority to highlight which landlords were already complying with the regulations, who hadn’t registered under the Housing Wales Act 2014, and which rented properties didn’t have an adequate EPC.

The first results highlighted 450 private rented properties with an EPC rating of F and 198 private rented properties with EPC of G. Of those, 286 needed loft insulation and 383 needed wall insulation. And using this information, the council secured funding of £377,650 for property improvements at little or no cost to the landlord.

A spokesperson for the council said: “[This] provides an example as to how data can be utilised to achieve energy efficiency improvement outcomes: we have been asked to present our work in front of audiences such as National Energy Actions (Fuel Poverty) Forum, Welsh Government / Rent Smart Wales national meetings and the North Wales housing technical panel. Other local authorities, government and third sector actors have recognised the work as best practice and are keen to follow with similarly modelled initiatives of their own.”

Your comments

Read our comments policy here