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Five ways your revenue and benefits data can help you work smarter

revenue and benefits dataAccording to the New Local Government Network think tank paper on ‘Demystifying Data’ services such as predictive software, data visualisations, and interrogation of open and joined-up data pools offer the opportunity to dramatically improve decision-making.”  With this in mind we have identified five ways we believe proper analysis of your revenue and benefits data, can lead to smarter working through better decisions and outcomes.

1. Identifying debtors most likely to pay
Any Authority should be able to view a list of their biggest debtors at the click of a button, based on total amount owed and across all departments. This should include Council Tax, HB Overpayments and areas such as outstanding parking fines and other sundry debt. The bigger challenge is then understanding where to direct your collection team efforts based on where you think you will get the most success. In other words identifying those individuals that are likely to have a higher propensity to pay the debt off. This can be done in a number of ways, one of the most cost effective is to set up a report that quickly and easily allows you to drill down into the detail of that person and their previous payment history. If you can see that in the past they have typically paid out before getting to the court summons or enforcement notice stage this is a good indicator that you may eventually get them to pay and is therefore worth making that debt a higher priority. Another option is to run the data against credit referencing information, to ensure the funds are available in the first place and to check their payment history in other areas. Quite quickly you can start to build a picture across your top 25 or 50 debtors to identify where the quick wins are, based on some solid research and analysis.

2. Identifying where exemptions statuses no longer apply
If you can effectively interrogate and query your data, with the right reporting tools you should be able to more easily identify where an exemption someone may have received in the past is no longer applicable. A typical example may be where you have a number of students who are not paying council tax. If you run a report that shows you how long this exemption has been in place and it reports back as being over 3 years, this gives ground to flag it and investigate it further. Similarly, if you run a report outlining where properties are undergoing maintenance and repairs and cross reference this with timescales the exemption has been in place, you can highlight those instances where the exemption has been in place for over 6 months. This may highlight those properties you can start re-billing if the exemption has run out.

3. Improving the process for completing government returns
Talking to a number of clients the annual government return can be a lengthy, drawn out process which requires pulling data from a number of different data sources. There are many different calculations which need to be worked out including business rates returned for the last year, how much was paid out in appeals, how much citizens were taxed, what discount classes were applied, debt written off and a number of other areas which need to be factored in. There are reporting tools which are available which will draw the data in from across all your core revenues and benefits systems, ensuring all the data is available in one place. This has saved many man hours resulting in reduced time to complete returns but has also improved accuracy as there is less chance of human error with a lot of the reports automatically pulling through the key information you need to complete the returns. Furthermore it has meant that Authorities have more time to then start analysing and looking at the data rather than simply reporting on it.

 4. Using data to help build a business case and propose new initiatives
More recently we are starting to hear back from customers on how they are using their reporting capabilities to put forward business cases, based on solid data. For example one customer was able to identify the amount of change of address requests they were processing over the course of a year. They were then able to calculate separately how long staff spent processing these requests. This data was then presented to the Management Team and a case made for using the change of address form within their core revenue and benefits system rather than the existing form they were using. Using the information they had, they made the business case and the key outcome was the implementation of a new way of processing requests which was more efficient, less labour intensive and freed up resources to focus on other areas.

5. Using historical data to help influence future outcomes
The ability to consolidate and view all your core data in one area, helps make it easier to produce and review reports on what has gone before. If you can start understanding key trends and patterns occurring within your Authority, for example decreases in the amount of new business starts ups which may indicate future reductions in the amount of business rates collected, you can start to plan for the future. This may be in the form of shoring up cash reserves to help fund any future budget shortfalls or it may prompt initiatives to attract new business. Similarly, you may start seeing an increase in the amount of council tax exemptions in your Authority, this may identify a need to review your current exemptions to see if any changes can be made to restore balance and make up any shortfall in monies collected.

This is just a small taster of how with the right information at your fingertips, you can make more informed and insightful decisions to help you run your Revenues and Benefits departments in a smarter way.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you work smarter please contact us on 01772 842092 or email info@destin.co.uk

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