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Web mapping system delivers cross-council addressing

NLPG Exemplar Award: Highly Commended – ‘Best Use Internally 2006: Leicester City Council.

Leicester City Council built its LLPG and started regular submissions to the NLPG hub at the end of 2002. The next phase was creating polygons for each BLPU, thus laying the foundations for the development of a corporate mapping system for use across the council. This was a major strategic objective and several systems are now using the gazetteer, including Environmental Health, Building Control and Consumer Services, Children and Young People’s Services. The gazetteer is also used by Land Charges, Electoral Services, the council’s CRM system, for the Schools Admission Service and by the waste collection contractor.

Over time the number of people within the council using the gazetteer has expanded because the web mapping system is available to all, across the council intranet. It is simple to use and in some instances preferred to operational systems with address searches completed in less than five clicks. Intranet monitoring statistics provided surprising evidence of how pervasive the system has become across all departments, even those that have not traditionally had a comprehensive list of addresses or access to detailed maps.

The web mapping system has many of the features of a 31 corporate GIS alongside its powerful address searching capabilities. Much of the functionality is also made available to citizens via the council’s website.

Outcomes

The gazetteer has enabled large numbers of staff across the council, as well as the public, to access gazetteer and map data very easily. The number of staff using the gazetteer has been greatly extended compared to the number that would have used it if it were only in operational systems. The basic structure of the gazetteer, using the BS7666 format, has enabled a powerful interface to be created that makes finding addresses straightforward. This combined with the growing trust in the accuracy and comprehensive scope of the data has led to its use in all departments.

Web mapping has been extended to on-line planning information with support for maps using the same system but with specific planning datasets loaded automatically. This met two of the government’s specific priority outcomes. Leicester City Council’s planning services achieved an impressive Pendleton Score of 19/21.

Up to date figures of usage of the web mapping system indicate considerable financial benefits from improved efficiencies in retrieving maps and spatial data. As many as 814 of the council’s staff would spend an average of 250 hours a year working with maps. Assuming a 20 per cent saving over previous methods and a Scale 3 hourly rate of £11, this amounts to savings of in excess of £447,000, a figure considered to be conservative as many users are above this pay scale.

The gazetteer is now a trusted source of property data, revealing a number of properties that were ‘missing’ and from which no council tax was being collected. Cross–referencing with Council Tax and the Electoral Rolls has also led to sub-divided properties being found. Some financial benefits have also accrued from the discovery other properties missing from lists in the form of unauthorised developments in gardens; these were picked up in the process of mapping the property extents.

‘Today there are excellent examples in the public sector of entities cooperating to give citizens and business a better service. These need support and encouragement and we need to grow and emulate their achievements across the whole of the public service sector.’ - Sir David Varney (Dec 2006); Service Transformation.

Key benefits

  • The LLPG now underpins many property based searches and through the web mapping system has become a trusted source of accurate data leading to its daily use in all departments.
  • There are many ‘service’ benefits. The ‘find my nearest’ facility helps members of the council to plan visits and provide citizens with accurate directions to council and other amenities.
  • The system provides access to other geographic information such as aerial photography, used to see ‘beyond the map’ and provide vital information both past and present to help with border disputes and tree preservation orders. Access to aerial photography with the full address search capability often means that some site visits become unnecessary while others can be better planned.
  • The system has elementary statistical tools which when combined with the powerful address search mechanism enables users to undertake fairly sophisticated catchments area studies by aggregating statistics together using the map to select zones near to a service delivery point such as a community centre.
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