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Using UPRNs to improve business rate collection

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Using UPRNs to improve business rate collection

 

Introduction

In line with other authorities, Bath and North East Somerset Council have been faced with a decrease in government funding. In response, the council chose to raise income, and minimise cuts to their services.

Their initial focus was on Business Rates. The council looked at the way they were run and the potential for increased revenue.

The Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) was being used by Bath and North East Somerset Council for their business rates and also for planning information. The new, integrated software system holds planning, building control, and licencing data. Previously there was no communication between different software. Underpinned by the UPRN, these were combined, allowing for the departments to work collaboratively. The new information was mapped, and displayed in the web-based GIS, to provide a better understanding of commercial properties in the area for the council.

Challenges

Bath and North East Somerset Council did not experience any major challenges when integrating the information from the two departments.

A minor challenge included a cultural change to the Business rates and planning teams from the introduction of new software. This resulted in a different way of working for the Business rates team. They needed to adjust to a map based environment. It was essential for teams involved to have a good understanding of the UPRN and its role within the process.

The collaboration was made easier by the use of the council IT team. They were able to carry out the back office linkages between systems, which allowed the GIS Team to map the data using the UPRN.

Solution

Steve De Bruin is the Business Improvement Manager who headed the collaboration. His purpose was to maximise business rate income. Steve noted how although planning applications for business premises were put on the council website, they were not joined with the business rates team. The focus of the change was to enable collaboration between these two departments. The end goal was for the business rates team to have easy access to all planning, building control and licencing information.

The UPRN was already being used within the business rates and planning systems, albeit entirely separately. This made it easier for the collaboration between departments to take place, with the UPRN as key to this process. The GIS Team facilitated this link by using the UPRNs to bring the two systems together and map them. The mapping was displayed within the council's web-based mapping system, where it could be over-laid on other information (such as listed building status) and viewed with the council's own street-level photography.

The resulting solution involved:

  • two new enterprise zones. With an enterprise zone you get 100% of the business rates. Previously it would take a long time to identify new businesses in these areas

  • extra datasets were added in from the information collected from external companies. This included: phone masts, show homes and solar panels. New UPRNs were created for these

    • all Phone masts, show homes and solar panels now liable to business rates. These were placed in to the gazetteer and mapped out. The gazetteer became richer due to extra information

  • the Business Rates team worked with the Valuation Office to show the new data found e.g. phone masts. The phone mast information was updated. It showed which companies owned the phone masts

  • all information was mapped. The map is updated once a week

  • flagged up which businesses had expanded and had not yet informed business rates; also those which changed their use which could change rateable value.

Outcome

There have been several economic and social benefits to the council since the collaboration of the business rates and planning teams. These have included:

  • an increase in revenue to the council through an extra £320,000 business rates identified in first 6 months

  • greater collaboration between departments. Awareness of the UPRN within the council and its teams

    • Business rates immediately informed of approved planning completions. They are kept informed of the planning process and building phase. In return, they can forward plan year by year their income through estimates given by the Valuation office displays ‘important dates' on a map, which allows business rates to know when they can start the billing process (for example when a completion notice has been issued)

  • they are able to see if a business is having more commercial/ rateable value from a structural change such as an extension

  • Business rates are able to independently control their own work through the collaboration of data. They now have fewer questions to other departments, which speeds up the process

  • Business rates are able to see when the value of a property changes due to information being in one place

  • other opportunities: matched business rate list against waste collection routes – found 50 or so businesses having their waste collected on a domestic waste collection. Waste team then could follow up to bring in more revenue to the council.

  • the profiles of the LLPG and of the GIS Team have been raised across the council.

In using the UPRN in this way, the council have been able to increase revenue, in return avoiding some of the cuts they would have needed to make. Moving forward, Bath and North East Somerset are now looking to use the UPRN to collaborate more of their departments.

Contacts

Martin Laker (Authority Address Custodian) – [email protected]

Amber Hill (research and communication assistant) – [email protected]