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Valuation Office Agency aims to transform its data


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is developing a new portal for local authorities to submit reports for council tax and rating lists.

This is part of its Business Systems Transformation programme which is updating technology and adding new geospatial capabilities to the data it uses.

Heather Whicker, director of information, data and analysis at the VOA, outlined the plan at last week’s GeoPlace annual conference, along with its work to improve its work with hereditament data, which indicate “paramount control” over a property.

The agency – whose main purpose is to maintain accurate lists for council tax and non-domestic rates – is developing the portal to make it easier for local authorities to submit data on properties.

It is also working with groups of councils on the gradual roll out and to carry out user research.

Improve interoperability

Its work on hereditament data is related to efforts to improve interoperability between its won and local authorities’ systems, for which it is encouraging the adoption of standards such as the use of the unique property reference number (UPRN) – which provides an identifier for every addressable location in Great Britain – where it is feasible.

Other elements involve encouraging the use of Ordnance Survey’s addressing API where feasible, using standardised descriptions for new addresses, and working in partnership with councils for continuous improvement.

“We have a lot of communications with teams in local authorities and representative groups around our core service delivery and development and new systems, but we usually engage with teams involved in billing of council tax and non-domestic rates and are not confident we are hearing from teams involved in addressing,” Whicker said.

She invited addressing teams who want to provide input to the effort to get in touch.

Challenges and complexities

But she also highlighted a number of challenges that are difficult to overcome, notably that hereditament’s legal definition does not always match a UPRN, that there are complex mappings for non-domestic properties, and there is a complex ecosystem addressing with many partners.

“Where the VOA and local authorities work together to bring in taxes is vastly important,” Whicker said. “And it’s where property and address data is currently used for a range of national statistics in dealing with national priorities.”

She added: “We’re doing lots of things to transform our data and want to connect it better to the national data infrastructure.”

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