Bringing Location to Life - case study based on a presentation from Nizete Vasconcelos, GIS Manager and Petri Iivonen, Web Developer, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council at the GeoPlace conference 2019
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC) wanted to reduce the material, handling and postage costs of council tax and Non-Domestic Rates billing, which stood at around £65,000 per year. It also wanted to offer a better online service to residents and businesses.
Often, online maps aren’t used due by councils: the perception is that users will have difficulty finding themselves on a map, or be frustrated by the process involved. TMBC decided to proactively display location-oriented information to people contacting them online – using verified addressing – thus negating the need for people to search for relevant services.
Reducing the time residents and businesses have to spend finding the information they need is a significant factor in customer satisfaction. When the information can be provided to the user it reduces the frustration and need to contact the council to obtain information they failed to find on the council’s website.
The solution involved integrating location data and verification services effectively into TMBC’s ‘My Account’ service, which enables them to access online operations. My Account was designed for residential and business users. It correlates the user’s address to TMBC’s gazetteer, extracting any UPRNs that are crucial in delivering operations effectively.
There are no restrictions on who can register an account. Users don’t have to be resident in the borough. To provide information, the system just needs an address within the TMBC boundary. To ensure the addresses are in the borough, an internal address database validates the data. The UPRN and geo coordinates are then used to extract Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates information, and spatial data is used to serve that relevant location-based information to the user.
As well as making paperless billing possible, the service gives residents details of their waste collection dates, nearest recycling centres, leisure facilities and car parks with a route map to selected feature. Residents can also see planning applications within a distance of choice. This is achieved by using the UPRN and coordinates from the address the user has provided with map services to retrieve a list of those facilities.
With over 18,000 registrations, 15% of the total population of the borough has now signed up to My Account via the Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council website.
Several thousand residents have opted into paperless billing - delivering thousands of pounds savings, instantly.
My Account users can select pages from the website (www.tmbc.gov.uk) and opt in to receive notifications, news and job updates directly to their inbox. This ensures users are always informed about the updates to topic of importance to them. It has also increased the number of people attending events in the borough; the number of applicants for advertised positions has also increased.
TMBC has also created a service that lets the My Account user select planning applications near their address. Since its introduction, this service quickly became the second most popular feature in the Council’s location based personalised services, with hundreds of visits to this service page every week.
- · TMBC has seen a 65% increase in logins to My Account on the period from 01/10/2018 to 31/03/2019, compared to previous year and 145% increase during the festive period of 15/12 to 15/01.
Another popular output is a display of nearest recycling centres (which is derived by integrating the waste and recycling collection schedule for the user’s property), and the weekly bulk-waste collection schedule.
• During the festive period between 15/12/18 and 15/01/19 almost 4,000 users looked for recycling information by logging in with their My Account details, generating over 10,000 map views.
Overall, the service has also enabled TMBC to improve the accuracy of its data by providing direct feedback from users to both the GIS and finance departments.