Keeping abreast of changes in property use is just one of the challenges a local authority can face when it comes to ensuring correct billing for Council Tax, maximising the safety of its residents and safeguarding the provision of services.
With a clear impact on the bottom line, it’s critical for councils to be able to identify and cross reference those changes-of-use to all their systems, eg a premise that changes from being a residential property paying domestic Council Tax to a holiday let that should be paying Non-Domestic Rates. If this goes undetected, the council not only stands to lose the revenue it should be generating, it could also mean any required health and safety inspections are not carried out, potentially putting holiday renters at risk. At Adur & Worthing Councils, the LLPG Custodian works very closely with the Councils’ Fire Officer to ensure the right information is shared in order to better safeguard their residents.
Registering to vote
Another important example of where changes to property use need to be shared widely involves the Electoral Registration Department. They may receive a request from a resident wishing to register to vote but if the premise is classified as commercial, they won’t be able to. When this happens at Adur and Worthing Councils, the Electoral Registration Department will report it to the LLPG Custodian to investigate, as commercial premises cannot accommodate voters. In a more complex example, if the premise is a warehouse, then the Fire Officer, Environmental Health and Planning Enforcement Teams all need to be alerted for safety reasons. By sharing the LLPG data on the iManage gazetteer, and the subsequent Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs), via their internal systems, the council are able to ensure every department is using the one true address. However it wasn’t always like that.
The perils of manual cross referencing
Pre-2011, Adur and Worthing Councils had to manually insert these cross references between their different systems. Some of these, namely the LLPG gazetteer, had the UPRN for the property, while others didn’t, so accuracy of the cross referencing to the correct address could be a little hit and miss. This wasn’t the only factor impacting on the council’s efficiency – manually inserting the cross references in this way meant they were unable to detect these changes in other departments’ systems, so for example, it might not show up on the Business Rates system that a residential property had changed to a holiday flat, or indeed a retail space had been converted to residential accommodation.
Automating cross references
As a part of Adur and Worthing Councils’ business objectives to streamline this area of work, they asked us to create a number of strategic links from some of their internal systems to our LLPG gazetteer, iManage. As a result, they could then make the relevant classification changes in the LLPG to avoid any errors. This automated process involved running ‘delete’ reports on a Monday, the ‘load’ process on a Tuesday and the ‘move’ process on a Wednesday via a folder of set Microsoft access reports held on the server. As a result, the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates billing references are now automatically loaded into the LLPG along with the Electoral Registration and Environmental Health references. It also changes the state code of an unoccupied address in the LLPG to ‘In use’ which acts as an additional trigger for the LLPG Custodian to enter an organisation name.
‘Now this process is fully automated, it only takes me about one hour a week, saving me around six – eight hours a week. That’s pretty much a full working day that I can spend focusing on other areas of my work,’ commented Una Herring-Green, LLPG Custodian at Adur & Worthing Councils.
‘In addition to that, we’re now confident we’re classifying properties correctly, ensuring the right billing and therefore revenue for the use of the property. And the same goes for ensuring any relevant inspections and licences are being requested.’
Complexities of property conversions
For Adur and Worthing, the Council Tax, Business Rates, Electoral Registration and Environmental Health systems all search for the UPRN on their internal Statmap GIS system, Earthlight, as this is updated daily. However, there will always be cases that will throw up some UPRN anomalies, for example, when a property owner converts a house into two or more flats they will need to contact the Council Tax team to inform them so the correct banding is applied to each flat. As that property will only have one UPRN showing the premise as one addressable object, a request has to be sent via the Aligned Assets address search, SinglePoint, requesting separate addresses. The LLPG Custodian can then create the addresses, with their own UPRNs, which they then share with Council Tax. If no planning applications were received or granted for the conversion, the data is then also shared with Planning Enforcement, Environmental Health and the Building Control Departments. The Business Rates Department also uses the Aligned Assets SinglePoint to locate the UPRN in the same way.
Linking back to the UPRN
Once the UPRN is located, the correct Billing Reference is applied, and the load and remove cross reference process will delete/move the old reference and insert/load the new reference. Adur and Worthing then share this with the Valuation Office. As a result of these tailored links, most of the internal systems receive the Change Only Update (COU) files daily into their systems via Aligned Assets iExchange, ensuring the information across the different departments and systems is consistent, saving time and eliminating confusion.
‘This is a great example of how we like to work with our customers to deliver precisely the solution they need to increase their efficiency and accuracy.’ Dinesh Thanigasalam, Commercial Director.
Contact us if you feel you could be getting more out of your gazetteer.