Sharing location information

The current squeeze on resources, combined with the need to continue to deliver key services, is a challenge shared by all of us. However, there are real opportunities to be innovative and creative. In particular, the opportunity can be taken to use what you already have in new ways to achieve better outcomes. This is where data, in the specific form of location information, comes into its own.

Often the topic of location information is seen as a technical issue. However, the reality is that it is a wide reaching resource which has numerous positive impacts. This includes assisting the creation of more efficient IT systems; aiding better information management; underpinning better customer services; informing policy as well as helping to facilitate the efficiencies senior managers need to achieve.  
Location information comes in many forms including digital or paper based maps to show the location of services; address information which informs customer segmentation of the location of need; and aerial imagery to help staff and councillors view location information in context. The key is that location information is already available within your organisation – and it can be utilised to provide intelligence which will help you make the savings you need. There is great potential in the wider use of location information; locating where need and services are, aiding better planning, better decisions and better outcomes.  
Recent research commissioned by the Local Government Group and carried out by ConsultingWhere found that the average annualised cost to benefit ratio of using location information more effectively throughout the local public sector was approximately 1:2.5. This equates to a £2.50 return on every £1 invested. The research also suggests that the economic output for English and Welsh local government has increased by over £222 million per annum as a result of using location information.  

We can also take this one stage further through the examples of the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG) and National Street Gazetteer (NSG). Local authorities have been involved in a ten year programme of developing a common digital language – a standardised, definitive index of streets and addresses – vital for day-to-day local government operations. Local government is the originator of this information and has applied sound information management principles towards a shared and standardised approach to data collection, maintenance and sharing.
The NLPG provides connectivity through the use of a persistent, centrally managed Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) linked to the address record. The use of the UPRN as the key identifier for a property enables systems to share information about the same location without the need to match multiple datasets and hold multiple cross references.             
Even if a property is demolished, the UPRN can never be reused and retains this historical information. This in turn facilitates the linking of asset and application data to the same identifier regardless of variations in the address.  
The NLPG and NSG can provide enablers to link other information sources together to provide further opportunities to save money and improve the delivery of services. The LG Group research found that the value of NLPG data sharing shows internal net benefits over a five year period in the range of between £15-24 million.

Examples of where the potential of the gazetteers has been achieved are evident across the country:
Newport City Council has yielded an estimated annual net benefit of approximately £57,000 per annum through updating systems once, through the primary database, instead of having to be applied to 17 separate systems. This is due to the data model utilised by the NLPG.
Teinbridge DC realised financial savings of £110k per annum through the optimisation of refuse collection routes using the NSG.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council, through analysing and rationalising its home to school transport using the gazetteers, has made an initial saving of £315,000 pa, which will rise as the remaining schools undergo the re-routing and re-tendering process. The savings as of June 2010 were over £1 million.
Plymouth City Council identified savings of around £150,000 pa simply by avoiding duplication of addresses in their systems by maintaining a corporate land and property gazetteer.
Huntingdonshire District Council increased tax receipts by around £180,000 pa through the elimination of unbilled council tax and non-domestic rates.
AXESS West Sussex Partnership has saved £18,500 through rationalised back office systems with a further £13,000 capital costs savings through joint procurement.
Chorley Borough Council, enabled by an accurate address list from the NLPG, has identified additional income of more than £16,000 by identifying properties not on the Council Tax register.
Blackpool Council has replaced its manual paper based systems for tracking public requests for traffic and highway schemes, resulting in dramatic increases in efficiency and an estimated saving of £30,000 per annum. Its improved forward highways maintenance plans have resulted in approximately 10-20 per cent less waste, equivalent to £250,000 per annum.
The list goes on. Every authority has a custodian for the Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) and also a location information expert (often the GIS manager) in their organisation, who is keen to help examine ways to improve front and back office services similar to those achieved by the councils listed above.
So to conclude, this is a time to conserve and spend less. But it is also an opportunity to be innovative and use what you have in new ways. Hopefully the examples outlined above have given you a few ideas for ways in which this could happen in your organisation.

The LG Group research can be found on the LG Group website:
Other examples of best practice in GI can be found here on:  
The NLPG website:
The NSG website:

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