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Connecting the middleman

Exemplar Award Winner- Runner-up Integration Award 2012: Northumberland County Council

In order to both improve and expand LLPG integration at Northumberland County Council, the decision was made to create ‘LLPG Connect’ which would place the gazetteer at the very heart of Council operations.

The objective of the project was to create a platform that could act as the middleman between the LLPG, Council Tax, Business Rates (NNDR), Electoral Registration, Payroll, BDUK Broadband data, GIS and any other system that the LLPG could connect to in the future. The project aimed to allow analysis and reporting on the data whilst automating the LLPG to reflect changes other departments had recorded in their systems. Fundamentally, it was about getting the information over to those who needed it.

How the project was carried out

The council created a database to act as the ‘brains’ of the operation, which would connect the various datasets. A web interface was then fashioned as a user-friendly way of viewing reports and providing charts, using live LLPG data for management overview.

Integrated into LLPG Connect were other things the LLPG team needed, such as their IT Scheduler which automated the sending of Change Only Updates to GeoPlace and all other systems. Also built into it was an LLPG intranet search and error reporting tool to allow users to send BLPU class updates, which in turn could create scripts to automatically implement their updates in the LLPG.

Outcomes

Comparison reports can now be easily run which means all new properties can be matched instantly. The council now knows which properties have been removed from Council Tax and NNDR, and can update the cross-references automatically.

They can update certain classes where possible using the NNDR classification, and use their live empty property data to update the BLPU status at the click of a button. The web interface also allows for synchronisation with both Council Tax and NNDR, and, through that, the easy updating of any unmatched cross-references.

Reporting functionality goes far beyond the GeoPlace health checks and is linked to a database that records the date and the number of items contained in any report, and can then display all this data using Google Charts in a custom built LLPG Connect web interface. Any of this data can then be extracted into a spread sheet and acts as a way of automatically giving information to the team about work that needs doing.

These charts also provide an at-a-glance way for management to check the current state of the LLPG and help to build user confidence in the quality of the gazetteer.

One of the most important reports that can now be produced compares the parish that Council Tax holds against the parish in the LLPG. The first time this was done it was found that many properties were in the wrong Council Tax parish and therefore paying the wrong amount on their bill. These were corrected and the report now flags immediately whenever this happens.

Without this project, the man hours necessary to update the BLPU status alone would have made it an unused field. In pure financial terms, the advanced GIS capabilities have the potential to save the Council £30,000 per year by replacing Mosaic data, and it also means that decisions are based on real data.

Key benefits

• a system that produces work reports for the LLPG team

• hundreds of man hours saved by automating council tax and business rate changes into the LLPG

• LLPG Officers have more time to advance LLPG integration with other systems

• an easy way for management to see the current state of the LLPG

• a way for users to download reports such as empty homes or derelict properties

• checks Council Tax are using the correct parish, thereby ensuring customers are paying the correct amount

• custom cross-references to list any group of properties from the LLPG for any purpose another department has

• a series of further health checks to ensure the LLPG is maintained at an outstanding level of quality and therefore improving customer satisfaction and helping to bring the LLPG to other departments within the Council

• produces advanced GIS data that is far better than that contained in Mosaic which can be purchased for £30,000 per year

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