Case Study The London Borough of Brent

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A12

Filing reference

:


A12

Date



:

16 Aug. 1999


Land and Property Gazetteer Project Group


Information Sheet


Case Study


The London Borough of Brent



Summary


This sheet is for information and discussion. It summarises Brent’s
experiences at setti
ng up and maintaining and LPG.



Background


Brent first evaluated the strategic corporate use of land and property
information in 1975. In the following years an ambitious programme of
development and implementation was undertaken. Computer systems we
re
developed jointly with the London Borough of Ealing to run on a shared IBM
mainframe computer. The Council was one of the first to incorporate the
digitised boundaries of all land parcels into its gazetteer, which became fully
operational in 1979.


Wh
en the Council invested in its own IBM mainframe, the Gazetteer migrated
to it, and in 1993 a further migration took place when the system moved to a
PC
-
based local area network, where it now resides. In the last year it was
the subject of a major upgra
de, which included the adoption of the BS 7666
Standard.


Data Sources


Key events in land and property life cycles are notified to the database
maintenance team by telephone, e
-
mail and proforma. These are
supplemented by periodic field surveys to test
the currency, coverage and
validity of the gazetteer.


The main sources are Planning, Building Control, Environmental Health,
Council Tax and Business Rates.


Interlinkage


All data to support Local Land Charge searches is incorporated as an integral
part
of the LPG. In addition some 20 boundaries (Wards, Enumeration
Districts, Water Authorities) are encoded into BLPU records.



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A Relationships Table enables related BLPUs generated through
aggregations and sub
-
divisions of other BLPUs to be identified


Unique Property Reference Number


The Brent UPRN predates BS7666 and has the following structure


SSSSSHHHHIsssTG where


SSSSS

=

Street Number

HHHH


=

House Number

I


=

House Number Suffix

ssss


=

sub
-
division of Property

G


=

Generation No.

T


=

Type o
f BLPU indicator


Basic Land and Property Units


The coverage of the Council’s surface area is complete. All identified plots of
land, postal addresses and streets are created as BLPUs, with Street records
being given a House Number of 0000.


Lock
-
up gar
ages and storage units are also included (a relic of the original
domestic rating system). Altogether some 150,000 BLPUs are recorded.


Uses and Benefits.


These are identified in a paper supplied by Brent and included as an appendix
to this study.


Conf
iguration







Server





Dell

Database




Delphi

Application Software


Acolaid (by Plantech)

GIS





GGP Systems Ltd.


Some 300 PCs are networked to the system.



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Appendix


The London Borough of Brent’s experience with Land & Property
Gazetteers





















1.

Why have a Land and Property Gazetteer?


A large number of Council Departments require property address information
in order to provide services to the public. Whether the service concerns
Planning, Housing Benefits, Council Tax, Environ
mental Health, Non
Domestic Rates or Land Charges, the address of the property or location of
the land parcel, in which a member of the public or a local business is
interested, is a key item of information.


The use across the Council of a common LPG, pro
viding one authoritative
source of property and address information, has offered Brent a number of
long term service delivery advantages. In particular it has helped to:




Promote efficiency and reduce duplication.



Avoid confusion and improve services.



Pr
ovide better management information.


These benefits are described in Sections 2
-

5 below. The way in which
Brent’s LPG service has been adapted in order to respond to changes in the
organisation of Council services


most notably those arising from dev
olution,
market testing and CCT


is covered in Sections 6
-

8. A list of the principal
users of the system is given in Section 9.

Management Summary


Brent’s comprehensive Land and
Property Gazetteer (LPG) covers all of the
150,000 privately and publicly owned buildings and land parcels in the
Borough. Each of these property units is given a unique reference number, to
which is attached the full postal address, an Ordnance Survey m
ap grid
reference (for use with digital maps and GIS packages) and other data such as
the Ward in which the property is situated and any Council ownership interest.


Starting in the Planning Department in the late 1970’s, the use of Brent’s LPG
spread exte
nsively throughout the Council in the 1980’s. Since 1993 the
Council has required all computer systems holding organised address and land
data to use this single, authoritative source of basic property information.
Updated daily, it is made available f
reely to all internal Business Units and
external contractors as a corporate service


The benefits that the Council has derived from its LPG are outlined below.



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2.

Promoting Efficiency and Reducing Duplication


The Principal advantage Brent has gained from the development of its LP
G is
that basic address and property information needs to be collected and
maintained once only


reducing the duplication and wasted effort that would
arise if each service unit requiring such data were to undertake this task for
itself.


But it is not ju
st the UPRN (which identifies each individual address and land
parcel), the associated full postal address and Ordnance Survey map grid
reference which need to be held once only. By holding the UPRN as part of
the property record on different computer sy
stems, information maintained by
other Council services about the same property can be linked


obviating the
need for this data to be duplicated as well.


For example local land charges provide solicitors (advising their clients on
property purchases) wit
h a composite picture of local authority decisions
affecting a particular property


including those made by Planning, Building
Control and Environmental Health. The use of the common UPRN in the
different systems maintained by these service units enable
s the information
required about a particular property to be extracted directly and automatically
from those systems


avoiding the need to replicate and reprocess data and
providing solicitors with a speedy response.


In a similar way information is excha
nged between the Housing Benefits and
Council Tax systems, so that combined rebates can be calculated for
residents living at a particular address.


3.

Making Use of GIS


Data handling costs have been reduced further by attaching a unique OS map
grid refer
ence to each UPRN in Brent’s LPG. This spatial link has made it
possible for area boundaries, such as wards, conservation areas, statutory
plan zones etc. to be plotted electronically or ‘digitised’. In this way
thousands of properties have been encode
d with their relevant ‘area’
description, without the laborious task of amending each property individually.


At the same time, this spatial link has made it possible to build a two
-
way link
between text information held against the UPRNs and the OS digita
l maps:
either a map can be displayed with the property selected from the text
database being shown at the map centre, or a map can be selected from
which the required property can be identified and a link made with the
information held about that UPRN on
the text database.


In summary the basic strategy behind Brent’s approach to the development of
its LPG is that, while hardware and software have continued to become
dramatically more powerful and cheaper to purchase, the cost of co
-
ordinating
and maintain
ing data


which is labour intensive


has grown. It is

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anticipated that this strategy will continue to allow the Council to make long
term savings in the cost of information management.


4.

Avoiding Confusion


Promoting Better Services


Reductions in d
ata handling costs are not the only benefits to be derived from
the development of a LPG. The use by different Council services in their
computer systems of one authoritative reference number, postal address and
grid reference can also help to reduce con
fusion in the delivery of service and
avoid further inefficiencies
-

problems that can, and do, arise if more than
one Council service needs to be provided in respect of a particular property,
but the service units concerned each hold varying address de
tails.


But the use of an authoritative, commonly used LPG can do more than limit
the number of expensive ‘left hand/right hand’ public relation disasters. Just
as importantly Brent’s LPG, with its attached OS grid references, has been
used to make servi
ce improvements that might not otherwise be possible.


As Local Authorities become more ‘
customer
-
focused’

the need for Council
reception staff to have access to such integrated information is likely to grow.
The use in computer systems used by different

services of a common LPG
reference number can help the Council to maximise the opportunities for
offering the public a comprehensive ’One Stop’ service, rather than one
provided in a piecemeal manner from different offices. The use of a LPG
may be a par
ticular advantage to Councils at a time when the organisation of
service provision is becoming more fragmented as a result of devolution,
market testing and Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT).


5.


Providing Better Management Information


Alongside the

process of devolution, Councils such as Brent are also
responding to the need to provide higher quality services and operate under
more stringent commercial criteria. To help meet this requirement Brent’s
LPG has been used to help to provide management
information to monitor,
review and improve service performance.


For example, information has been produced to show Council ownerships in
specific areas, listings of residential property and community facilities by ward,
and data extracts have been provide
d to assist with Regeneration Budget
projects.


The production of mapped information


using the UPRN/OS grid reference
link

can also provide a cost effective means of helping to meet these
objectives


for example by mapping:
-




The distances children tra
vel to school in order to examine a school’s
attraction in relation to capacity issues.




Customer complaints received at the Council’s “One Stop Shops” by area
and by type of complaint.


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Noise complaint ‘footprints’ following concerts at Wembley Stadium in

order to reduce future nuisance and disturbance to residents.




Crime incidents to help prioritise and design crime prevention schemes in
conjunction with the police and other agencies.


Such management and service planning information can be produced in t
he
form of computer drawn maps, which make use of the UPRNs/OS grid
reference link. Without this key data, each service wanting such mapped
information would need to convert the addresses in question to a map
reference, which would need to be plotted by
hand. With this data and the
link to OS digital maps already in place, the Council and its various service
providers are in a position to reap the benefits of new GIS software at very
low additional costs.


6.


Adapting the LPG service for Devolution. Ma
rket Testing

and CCT.


In the past, nearly all of the systems using the Brent Land & Property
Gazetteer were run on an IBM mainframe computer. But with the onset of
client/contractor arrangements, the creation of business units as part of an
internal ma
rket, and the general devolution of functions within the Council,
which included disbanding the mainframe computer service in favour of local
hardware and software facilities, problems arose, which required changes to
be made to the way the Property Databa
se service was provided and
organised.


7. Changes in the Provision of the LPG Service


In the initial drive for devolution and externalisation, certain services, which
previously used the Land & Property Gazetteer data as an integral part of
their compu
ting arrangements, were contracted out to private organisations,
without stipulating in sufficient detail how the Council’s LPG data was to be
used and updated. Consequently the quality of the data was not always
maintained properly.


This experience hig
hlighted the Council’s long term interest in high quality
property data; the need to recognise that the data in question was owned by
the Council, not the contractor; and that the state of the data handed over to
any new contractor was a critical factor, w
hich could potentially affect future
service standards.


In the face of all these changes, the Council became aware that a data
strategy was required in place of the hardware and software strategies it had
previously operated. In particular, it became ap
parent that, in order to secure
the advantages of Brent’s LPG in the changed organisational environment, it
would be necessary to make it mandatory for the main UPRN, the full postal
address and the unique Ordnance Survey grid reference attached to each
UP
RN, to be used in any Council computer service system holding organised

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data about land and property. At the same time model clauses have been
drafted for incorporation into relevant service contracts to ensure that this
mandatory information is used, pr
operly maintained and handed back in good
order at the end of the contract period, and that relevant information is
supplied back to the Property Database Team.


Certain other benefits to the Council were also lost with the process of
evolution and the ter
mination of mainframe computing


in particular the
ability to integrate information across different systems. For example, under
the mainframe arrangements it was necessary for the UPRNs to be held once
-

and not replicated and updated across all the sy
stems using them. Similarly
information held about a particular property by different service systems using
LPG data


such as Planning, Housing and Environmental Health


could be
gleaned by skipping across the relevant mainframe systems at the
UPRN/Pro
perty level, without the need to sign on to, or off from, different
hardware or systems.


Some of these lost benefits will be restored by new IT developments
-

such as
Client/Server arrangements, which will make it easier for key LPG data to be
held on a co
rporate server, from which local systems will be able to pull down
specific property details as and when required. In addition, software
developments are tending to make it easier to link systems together and
enable data to be exchanged more readily.


Th
e existence of a unique, authoritative UPRN within each system will provide
the essential data infrastructure that will make such exchanges of data
possible.


8. Changes in the Management of the LPG Service


Devolution and the creation of an internal mar
ket has also affected the way in
which the Brent LPG service is managed.


Prior to 1993 the service, although provided for the Council as a whole, was
wholly managed and run within the Town Planning Department. As part of
the decision to make it a corpor
ate requirement to use the LPG data in any
relevant computer system (and to bear the cost of the service as a corporate
charge), the management of the project was also changed.


In line with the principles behind the devolution of services, it was consider
ed
important that internal business units and external contractors required to use
the LPG service, should, as far as possible, be treated as customers who
could exercise a choice, even if, in practice, they could not. Accordingly in
1993 the organisatio
n of the service was made the subject of a
commissioning/contracting arrangement with formal provision for setting,
monitoring and reviewing services standards.


Since that time the service has been commissioned by the Information
Manager in the Council’s
Core IT Unit. The contract has been carried out by
a team of two, currently located in the Council’s Area Planning Business Unit,

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where they are close to one of the principal sources of data required to
maintain and update the LPG. Review meetings betw
een the Commissioning
and Contract managers are held at monthly intervals, with the principal
objective of reviewing and improving service quality and planning new
developments.


Currently each customer or user of the LPG service is seen once a year to
obt
ain their views on the quality of the service provided, the need for
improvements and to appraise them of planned developments. At these
meetings the opportunity is also taken to review their Customer Service
Agreement


and in particular to agree any ch
anges to the data supplied by
the LPG and that supplied by the customer to help update and maintain the
LPG.


9.


Principal users of the Brent Land & Property Gazetteer


Environmental Services




Development Control



Borough Planning (UDP)



Local Land Charges



B
uilding Control



Food safety/Pest Control



Health, Safety & Licensing



Pollution & Scientific



One Stop Shop


Street Care Services




Refuse Collection



Street Cleaning



Highways



Street Works Register


Financial services




Council Tax



Housing Benefits



Non
-
Domestic
Rates


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Housing Services




Lettings



Voids & Allocations



Rents



Right To Buy



Repairs


Other Ad Hoc Users




Audit



Chief Executive’s Policy Unit



Brent regeneration Agency