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10 things you can do with Council Revenue and Benefits data

data analytics finalIf you work within a Council Revenues or Benefits department, the amount of data you have access to and work with on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Coupled with the fact that the data can come from a variety of different sources, systems and departments it can be challenging to derive any real insight from it.

With the right reporting and analytics tools in place this doesn’t have to be a complex process. By taking the data you have across multiple systems, sorting it and analysing it, the output of these reports can help you improve your service delivery and drive up collection rates. We’ve outlined a few areas worth consideration below.

1. Free up your ‘revenue on hold’
Most Councils track why holds are in place for different customer accounts, who put the hold on the account and the value of the hold. But in some instances this information is captured across different systems which can hinder the process of providing a fuller picture of all revenue on hold. There are debt reporting tools which can assist with this by collating data from across a number of large business systems to present you with a full breakdown of what is on hold, the value of it and how long it has been on hold for. This means you can start proactively targeting those accounts again which may have fallen through the gaps.

2. Be more proactive on Housing Benefits Overpayments
By effectively querying your council data you can identify who has been overpaid, how old the debt is, the amount owed and whether any other debts are owed by that individual. This will help lead to a more focussed approach for recovery. Taking it a step further the latest reporting tools can help identify trends, for example by age band, does there appear to be a trend amongst specific age-groups which fail to inform Councils in a timely manner of changes in circumstance? If so it may be worth investing in targeted campaigns to remind claimants within that age group to notify Councils as soon as their circumstances change to avoid future financial difficulties as a result of benefit overpayments.

3. Tackle fraud in Single Person Discounts
Every Council typically has a consolidated list of all their Single Person Discount claimants, but when was this last reviewed or checked for accuracy? Peoples circumstances change all the time and they don’t necessarily inform Councils in a timely manner. By taking that list and checking it against the latest data matching and analysis tools you can highlight high risk instances where there are undisclosed occupants living at a property and update Council records and maximise revenues.

4. Pinpoint the empty properties most likely to be inhabited
Each Local Authority is responsible for maximising their council tax yield but it is a difficult and time consuming process to identify and check which properties are newly occupied and require billing. If you were to take your Councils current empty property list and run this through a series of checks and merge the data with other known property information you can more accurately pinpoint which properties should be on the top of your inspection list. This is exactly what Preston and Lancaster Shared Service did and you can find out what results it delivered for them here >

5. Make more informed predictions on the impact of business rates appeals
In our experience Councils can tie up vital resources when trying to calculate at any point in time the number of business rates appeals they are dealing with and the value of these, let alone conduct any more in-depth analysis on the data. With the application of reporting tools to pull through relevant data sets from different systems you can calculate at the touch of a button how much money the Council has paid back to businesses. Furthermore, with the consolidation of data you can start identifying trends in this area and make more informed predictions on how this might impact the Council finances throughout the remainder of the year.

View 10 things you can do with revenues and benefits data as a slideshare presentation; from Destin Solutions

6. Identify where your debt sits and patterns amongst particular customer types
The biggest challenge Councils can face when collecting taxes is really identifying who their customers are. If you understand your customer, the level of debt they have, you can drill down into the detail, focussing on specific groups of people or issues to get to the finer details of an account so a more focussed approach to recovery collection can be applied when contacting customers. This approach will also help you spot patterns among particular customer types to help more with recovery drives.

7. Put together more informed repayment plans, debtors are more likely to meet
Councils have a responsibility to collect debt in an ethical way and if you have a true understanding of all the debt one individual owes across all business areas you can take into account their whole financial situation. By using a simple reporting tool to extract data from across all debt systems within your Council you can access the information you need to put together a repayment plan debtors are more likely to meet. The added benefit of this being that you won’t cause the customer additional hardship which can require extensive support from elsewhere in the Public Sector.

8. Identify how your tax base is changing over time
It can be difficult to keep on top of how much a Council has charged within a specific timeframe, particularly when you have to take into account discounts, exemptions and new properties which can change on a daily basis. With the application of the right reporting tool, taking data from across the multiple sources that track this information you can quickly and easily obtain the finer details and use the outputs to interpret how you might expect the tax base to change in future.

9. Share information internally for better outcomes
Quite often other departments may rely on the data you provide to help them function more successfully. We have worked with clients in the past who proactively track their list of empty properties and make sure that this is regularly updated and shared with their planning department to help them identify opportunities for regeneration that will support the local community more effectively in future

10. Forward plan and forecast future income
The more visibility of the collections and debt data you have across all business areas, the better position you are in to make more informed decisions related to your future income. Successfully balancing the Council budget relies on the accuracy of this data and it can also help pinpoint problem areas before they develop into bigger issues and provide a better indication of how collections are doing against target throughout the year.

A lot of these suggestions are common sense but what can hold Authorities back is the belief that it is just too costly or complex to implement the necessary technology to get the job done. This is simply not the case and a number of UK Authorities have already taken the first step working with Destin Solutions to implement bespoke reporting tools designed to get them the information they need to drive up collections.

For more information on how we can help you contact us now on info@destin.co.uk or call 01772 842092.

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