With an ongoing consultation from the Department for Communities and Local Government on Self-sufficient local government: 100% business rates retention', collection of business rates is a hot topic within the local government finance and localism agenda. Whether or not the proposal goes ahead, business rates are an important source of funding for councils and the very highest collection rate is a priority.
Bath and North East Somerset Council decided to review its processes around business rate collection and its existing sources of intelligence for new potential rateable properties by integrating information from planning, building control, licensing with the business rates department.
By using the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN), held by every individual piece of land and property in the council, it proved to be a straightforward process to combine the data held by the different departments to enable them to work collaboratively.
Steve de Bruin, Business Improvement Manager spearheaded the project saying that: "My overall purpose was to maximise business rate income. From analysing our internal processes, I noted that although planning applications for business premises were put on the council website, they were not joined with the business rates team. It was clear that we needed a mechanism to enable the departments to work better together. Our end goal was for the business rate team to have easy access to all planning, building control and licensing information".
The UPRNs held in both databases enabled the systems to be brought together and displayed on the council's web-based mapping system for easy access, viewing and analysing. The map was overlaid with other information such as phone masts, show homes and solar panels, which are liable to business rates, to ensure that they were being correctly billed. The system also demonstrated other aspects which could flag a change in rateable values such businesses that had expanded.
Steve continued: "In using the UPRN to bring the systems together and display them on an easy to understand map interface, we have seen an increase in revenue to the council of an extra £320,000 of business rates within the first six months. There have also been a number of intangible benefits such as greater forward intelligence about property holdings, less officer time spent on identifying rateable business premises and a speeded up rating process."
In using the UPRN in this way, the council has been able to increase revenue. Moving forward, Bath and North East Somerset are now looking to use the UPRN to enable more inter-departmental collaboration.