Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace have welcomed the Cabinet Office’s call for greater use of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) across the public sector, to support the move towards individual electoral registration (IER).
UPRNs are assigned to address records by local authorities at the planning stage and persist for the lifetime of each and every property across Great Britain. This means that every property is uniquely recorded and can be unequivocally identified by any organisation that holds the UPRN in its own records. Ordnance Survey publishes the UPRNs in its AddressBase™ range of products, produced by GeoPlace LLP in conjunction with the Local Government Association and Scottish Government’s Improvement Service.
Ordnance Survey’s AddressBase product is made freely available to the whole of the public sector under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement and One Scotland Mapping Agreement. This means that all government departments can make use of UPRNs – giving the potential to significantly improve the data matching process, as a step towards easing the transition to IER.
Under the current system of electoral registration an annual household canvass form is sent to each address, which is completed by one individual on behalf of everyone living at the property. From 2014, this system of registration will be replaced by a one-off IER, with individuals registering individually and providing personal identifiers for registration.
Ensuring that the registers are as complete and accurate as possible and that levels of completeness and accuracy do not decline under IER is a key aim of Government. Data matching, whereby name and address records on the electoral register are matched against other sources of public data, is one tool which will assist in ensuring that the registers remain as complete and accurate as possible, both during the transition to IER in 2014–15 and on an ongoing basis.
A recent pilot of 22 electoral registration officers undertook a project to match their own electoral registers with data from eight central government departments including: Department for Work and Pensions, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and Department of Education. The aim was to discover whether the data matching process could identify names missing on the electoral register and understand the impact of this process on electoral registers.
The pilot concluded that there were a number of issues with the quality of the data, including the currency and level of duplication within the datasets. As a result, the Cabinet Office made eight recommendations for the future, including a key one on the standardisation of data: ‘Where possible there should be greater consistency between the national datasets and the electoral register to ensure compatibility. In particular, improved standardisation of data formats and the use of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) in national datasets would improve match rates, in addition to more sophisticated algorithms.’
Ordnance Survey will continue to work closely with a number of key government departments on their implementation of AddressBase, and will continue to champion greater adoption of the UPRN to ensure more effective cross matching of property related datasets.