A new web portal, underpinned by geographical information from Ordnance Survey, helps the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) to become digitally interactive.
LGBCE is responsible for providing fair and demographic electoral registrations for England, and for ensuring that electoral boundaries remain in ‘good repair’. LGBCE also has a remit to engage with the public to develop its recommendations and seek feedback wherever possible, to ensure that the process is effective and fair.
LGBCE has always published mapping extracts to accompany draft recommendations, and this has previously taken the form of PDF’s which are published online. Due to the nature of the PDF content, accessing these extracts has been a very slow process for both LGBCE and members of the public. Each of the files can be up to 40 mb in size, which makes them slow to download and difficult to open. In addition, the PDFs are not interactive and LGBCE has recognised that this does not necessarily provide a good user experience and is not cost effective for the long term. Any solution would need to respect the government’s ‘digital by default’ strategy, by utilising online systems and technologies wherever possible.
The challenge for LGBCE has been to find an effective way to display boundaries online in a way that was quick, clear, easy to use and most importantly, cost efficient. At the same time, the solution would have to provide a more interactive customer experience that would increase the quantity and quality of the public feedback that LGBCE was receiving.
LGBCE partnered with Informed Solutions, (a leading independent IS and IT professional services practice), to deliver a new web portal that was based on Ordnance Survey digital mapping data.
The portal is underpinned by the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) – a licensing agreement that allows all public sector organisations across England and Wales to use geographic data provided by Ordnance Survey. The cloud-based portal has been built using the InformedCONSULT platform.
The portal takes LGBCE boundary files that have been digitised by Ordnance Survey and overlays them on Ordnance Survey mapping, to give each boundary context and to highlight the proposed changes. The detailed mapping layers ensure that boundaries are clear and can be understood. The integrated tools, built into the portal, allow a user to search for their local area using a postcode and then pan and zoom the map to the location of choice. This gives the user a great deal of flexibility in the way that they interact with the service.
As well as delivering a new and interactive service, LGBCE has also been able to make more cross-government efficiencies. Boundary data that is now stored electronically can be shared with other local authorities quickly and easily, thanks to the flexibility of the PSMA.
- This new portal has increased the amount of public feedback by over 100%, for some reviews.
- The PSMA has enabled the sharing of digital boundary files across the public sector.
- The flexibility of the PSMA enabled Informed Solutions to access Ordnance Survey data as part of the portal development process.
- Ordnance Survey data is now underpinning a centralised platform that can manage all customer interaction, enabling them to ‘self serve’. This reduces the amount of time LGBCE spends in direct contact with the public.
- The flexible and interactive portal has enabled LGBCE to put the customer first whilst reducing operational costs and delivering against the public sector ‘digital by default’ policy.
- The portal has created positive impact around the LGBCE brand and has increased user confidence in the process.
- The system is now much faster, with no need to download large PDFs.
- Reduced expenditure on outbound postage costs.
- Reduced expenditure on mapping production.
- Aims to reduce printing costs by up to 30% within two years.
- Reduced direct customer interaction through the new ‘self-serve’ portal; this has allowed LGBCE to focus resource more effectively.
- More and higher-quality public submissions results in a more robust scheme.
- Overall, the above efficiency savings will equate to around £100,000 year-on-year saving for LGBCE.