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Boundary changes – putting the gazetteer to work

Exemplar Award Winner- Highly Commended NLPG NSG Exemplar Award ‘Integration Award’ 2010: Huntingdonshire District Council

Administrative and electoral boundaries change infrequently but are under constant review in order to ensure that they are an up-to-date reflection of real life communities with appropriate electoral representation.

Within Huntingdonshire District Council, the LLPG team has been involved in a comprehensive review which dated back to 2006. However, the statutory instrument, ‘The Huntingdonshire (Parishes) Order 2009’, was issued in July of that year, leaving the Council only seven months to prepare for the changes which would come into effect in April 2010. 27 out of 84 parishes were affected, 3 were abolished, 4 new parishes were created and the remainder saw changes to their boundaries. The changes also affected 8 out of the 29 electoral wards. These changes affected more than 6,000 properties.

Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) has a high quality LLPG that is dynamically linked to over 40 of its service delivery systems, making it central to this project to assimilate and communicate the boundary changes. The first and most crucial requirement was to identify, for Council Tax, the number of properties that would change parish. This would then enable the Parish Councils to calculate the budget for their precept, the local component of Council Tax. This information had to be delivered several months prior to the changeover date.

The Huntingdonshire LLPG holds Parish and Ward codes as well as Council Tax and Electoral Registration cross references. These are not compulsory but, in this case, proved to be vital to the process upon which the council embarked. HDC’s LLPG team used the new electronic boundary maps supplied by Ordnance Survey to view the intersections between the old and the new boundaries in their Geographical Information System. Because every property within the LLPG is referenced to a parish and to Council Tax, they were then able to perform a process to identify the affected properties. Once the properties had been identified, the information was supplied electronically to Parish Councils as spread sheets, along with maps in PDF format. The exercise was repeated immediately before Council Tax billing commenced in March 2010, to ensure accuracy.

A similar analysis was undertaken for Electoral Registration, to identify properties where both the ward and the parish had changed.

Outcomes

Having analysed the data in advance of the changeover, it was possible to prepare for the switch to the live system. On 31 March 2010, the Parish and Ward layers were updated in the LLPG, parish names were changed, old parishes deleted and new parishes added. All properties affected were attached to their new parishes and wards, all of which was completed in time for the updated LLPG to be available across the council by the April deadline and the start of the new financial year.

The data has been shared with Cambridgeshire County Council, which is the highways authority, to ensure accurate changes to the National Street Gazetteer and to highlight shifts in population between parish and ward. The changes have also been shared with the Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service.

The public were kept informed through the council’s own magazine, local newspapers and through the annual Council Tax communication.

This project is a good example of why a local authority should fully embrace the LLPG across all of its service delivery systems. As Huntingdonshire has a fully integrated LLPG, the boundary changes could be tackled once by the team responsible for addressing and then used across the authority and beyond. It has been estimated that the council saved a minimum of £35K additional expenditure because no other departments had to get involved. The transition was smooth and caused no operational issues, further enhancing the value and profile of the LLPG within the authority

Key benefits

  • 100% LLPG linking with service delivery systems meant a single project with delivery Council-wide providing a significant financial saving
  • Process facilitated by inclusion of Parish and Ward codes and cross references with Council Tax and Electoral Registration in the LLPG
  • Project was carried out accurately, on time and with no operational disruption
  • Project did not affect the consistently high level of data accuracy and integrity
  • Changes communicated effectively to all parishes within the county, the County Council and the Fire & Rescue Service
  • Process enhanced the value and profile of the LLPG within the authority

View from the authority

“We believe in making our LLPG work for the authority to ensure it provides a good return on the substantial investment of the last few years. Our LLPG is now used by over 40 systems within the authority and it certainly facilitated the management and communication of the boundary changes when they came into effect. This project not only engaged with internal users of the gazetteer but also external users, such as the County Council and the Fire and Rescue Service. It certainly enhanced the value and profile of the LLPG within the authority.”

-David Lloyd, Local Land & Property Gazetteer Manager, Huntingdonshire District Council.

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