Introduction from LPS Chief Executive
I am pleased to present the Land & Property Services Business Plan for 2023/24.
In October 2022, we launched our new corporate strategy - The LPS 2027 Strategy - which sets out the organisation’s vision ‘to make a real and positive difference through land and property services’. The Strategy sets out how we intend to go about making this vision a reality and how we will achieve our three strategic goals:
- Designing quality land and property services for customers
- Consistently delivering value across all that we do
- Creating the right environment for our people to succeed
As the vision makes clear, the Strategy is all about making a real and positive difference. To help keep us focussed on the difference we are making, we have decided to change the way we produce the business plan this year. We are adopting an approach based on a methodology called Outcomes Based Accountability, which encourages us to focus on the results we want to achieve and the impact we want to have, rather than processes, inputs, or activities. As this is the first time we have tried this approach, we will not get it completely right this year. However, I hope that as it becomes embedded and we understand it better, this approach will really help us to deliver the real and positive difference we hope to make.
The LPS 2027 Strategy will transform the way that LPS delivers services for Northern Ireland. It is an ambitious programme of work, including comprehensive digital transformation, that will take at least four years to implement in full. We cannot do everything that is set out in the strategy at once, so we have involved staff and managers from across the organisation in discussing what we should focus our energies on first. Our Business Plan for 2023/24 sets out the themes of the strategy that we are prioritising in the first year:
We will deliver a programme of work to change the way we manage the services that we deliver to ensure they are customer centred. This is connected to the Services & Channels theme is the strategy. We want to ensure that all of our services are cohesive, efficient and fit for purpose so that we give our customers the standard of service that they expect and we don’t waste time and resources on disjointed or ineffective processes.
We will deliver a programme of work to improve and integrate LPS services and data. This is linked to the Optimisation & Integration theme of the strategy. We want to develop new technological capabilities and ways of working that will allow the different parts of LPS to share information, work together and develop end-to-end services more easily and effectively, helping us to do more with less.
We will deliver a programme of changes and improvements to the governance arrangements in LPS. This is connected to the Governance theme in the strategy. We want to make the rules around decision-making and delegation of authority simpler and improve the flow of information in the organisation. This will make sure that the people who are most closely involved in delivering our services are empowered to make changes to improve those services.
We will deliver a programme of learning and development activities for LPS staff to develop skills, increase engagement and support positive wellbeing. This is connected to the Learning & Development theme in the Strategy, which is about ensuring that our people have the right skills, knowledge and experience, so that we can do our jobs effectively and drive innovation and improvement.
LPS also has a lot of essential public services to deliver while we are managing this transformation. LPS is a very large and complex organisation, so no set of indicators will capture the full range of what we deliver every year. The Corporate Business Plan will be supplemented by Business Plans for each of the main LPS Directorates that include a lot more detail about what they will deliver over the coming year.
Achievements in 2022/ 2023
Designing quality land and property services for customers
The LPS Customer Information Centres across our office network were reviewed for the post-pandemic environment and re-opened from July 2022, providing a further improvement in service for our customers.
LPS contact centre services were transferred to a new supplier in October 2022 and new call handling technology for LPS staff was implemented. This has improved call wait times for our customers and provided new opportunities for service improvement and transformation.
We expanded the use of digital customer contact management tools across our operations, leading to improved convenience for customers and greater operational flexibility and efficiency.
New processes were introduced to help customers pay rates. A QR code was used in rate bills and letters, enabling customers to leave contact details for a call back. This contributed to almost 7,000 additional payment arrangements being set up.
A new online rates payment service was developed and went live on 21 September 2022.
Over 30,000 owner occupier Housing Benefit and Low-Income Rate Relief claims were transferred to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in June 2022. The transfer will provide a simpler customer journey for all Housing Benefit claimants.
A new Pay by Link payment service for Land Registry went live in January 2023. This allows citizens to pay for Folio searches and maps using debit/ credit cards, removing the requirement for payment by cheque and delivering a much improved service.
The Land Registry successfully converted scanned documents and images held in the Landweb system in the outdated DJVU format into PDF format. This ensures all future documents will be stored in PDF format.
Ordnance Survey NI secured £300,000 of funding from the UK Space Agency to develop a public sector Earth Observation Portal. The project will help public bodies better understand and utilise data gathered by satellites in their service delivery.
We secured the agreement of the NICS Board to mandating the use of the Pointer address format in all government databases. This will make it easier to join up data across Government.
Ordnance Survey’s Geospatial Survey Service was launched, sharing OSNI’s surveying skills and expertise with other government departments.
The analysis phase of the project to implement the new digital solution for rate collection, known as RAPID, was successfully completed. The new solution is scheduled to go live in August 2024.
The Selection Questionnaire phase of the procurement of the Land Registration Delivery Partner Project was completed, with three bidders selected to compete in the next stage of the procurement. The Initial Detailed Solutions phase was also successfully completed and the project has moved to Pre-Invitation to Submit Final Tender stage with the bidders.
Pre-market engagement, including visits to other jurisdictions and discussions with potential suppliers, has been completed for Valuation Delivery Partner Project.
An Alpha version of ‘PartyHub’, a new data management application which will register and manage a single customer ID for all LPS customers, both citizens and organisations, was released.
Consistently delivering value in all that we do
We successfully delivered the non-domestic revaluation by 31 March 2023. This is the third revaluation in 8 years, delivering on the Department’s commitment to hold more frequent revaluations.
9,979 new homes were added to the Domestic Valuation List, increasing the value of the list by £1.2bn (1.2%) and generating an additional £11 million in annual rates revenue.
1,017 new business properties were added to the Non Domestic Valuation List, increasing the value of the list by over £10.2m (0.6%) and generating an additional £5.7 million in annual rates revenue.
The average age of Valuation cases in progress was reduced to 77 days for new domestic property and 191 days for new non-domestic property.
Almost £1.36 billion in rates revenue was collected providing vital funding for public services delivered by the Northern Ireland Executive and District Councils. This was 91.5% of the estimated gross collectable rate in the year.
Despite the uncertainties of the political situation during 2022, we developed and secured the legislation needed to allow rate bills to be issued on the normal timetable for the first time since 2019.
86,000 applications relating to land transactions in Northern Ireland were received and processed by the Land Registry. Nearly 50,000 cases went through the Quality Assurance process with 95% of the cases found to be accurate.
Over 26,500 new Rate Rebate applicants were helped during the year.
£22.3 million in Rate Rebate was provided to over 35,000 ratepayers during 2022/ 2023, with a financial accuracy rate of 99.1%
£60 million in rate reliefs for businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic was awarded in 2022/ 2023. Altogether, over the course of the pandemic LPS administered rate reliefs worth approximately £570 million and grants worth £731 million to businesses in Northern Ireland.
The Back in Business Support scheme was reintroduced. 75 businesses were awarded relief.
2,180 advice and valuation cases were completed for NI Departments and public sector bodies. The overall client satisfaction rating is 93%.
The OSNI LPIS Team edited 72,945 fields and associated features to enable farmers to claim Single Farm Payments worth approximately £300 million to the agricultural economy.
The Government Land & Property Register team identified and mapped 17,496 property and land assets owned by government departments and their arms-length bodies. 33.4% of those assets have been verified and published online.
The Digital Services Service Desk handled circa 1,600 emails per month relating to incidents, service request, and change requests as well as a triage and advice & guidance service.
We produced important statistical publications throughout the year, including the House Price Index, to help inform public policy analysis and debates.
Creating the right environment for our people to succeed
We published a new organisational strategy (The LPS 2027 Strategy) which sets out our shared vision, values and strategic objectives; and the operating model against which we will align our plans and activities.
We developed and delivered an online geospatial training programme for LPS staff consisting of 5 different courses. 109 staff have completed all of the courses and 504 have completed at least one course.
634 staff participated in the programme of 27 staff health and wellbeing initiatives delivered during the year.
550 staff attended a programme of high quality staff engagement activities and events to help us reconnect and build relationships after the pandemic.
80 of our staff were promoted.
We completed the rollout of the hybrid working environment in all LPS offices and implemented the New Ways of Working Policy.
A new outcomes-based approach to business planning
To align with the vision of our Corporate Strategy - to make a real and positive difference through land and property services - this year Land & Property Services is taking a different approach to developing our corporate business plan. Our approach is based on a methodology called Outcomes Based Accountability.
In previous years we have written the business plan by starting with questions like ‘what do we have to do?’ and ‘what do we want to get done by the end of the year’ and then setting SMART targets (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound) for the things that we want to get done. The result was a business plan which was mainly a set of targets which described tasks we intended to complete, processes we intended to follow, outputs we hoped to produce or amounts of money we intended to invest.
There is no question that this way of doing things has benefits in terms of being clear and can help us to get things done. However, it can’t tell us if we are achieving what we need to - a problem summed up in the saying that we can ‘hit the target but miss the point’.
Also, in the traditional approach, each target has to have an ‘owner’ - one person who is responsible for ensuring the target is achieved - and this makes it difficult to set targets that relate to more than one team. This is a problem in a big, complex organisation like LPS where the delivery of our services often depends on the input of several different teams. As a result, the target driven approach has not helped us to integrate the way we do things and join up our services.
The starting point for the outcomes-based approach this year has been to ask ‘what would a real and positive difference look like’. It has encouraged us to think about the results we want to achieve and the impact we want to have, rather than tasks, processes, inputs, or activities. While we are used to thinking about results and impacts when we evaluate policies or projects, the Outcomes Based Accountability approach requires us to think about these things when we are planning, delivering and reporting on projects and services.
This change of approach means that, rather than a list of targets, the business plan sets out the actions we are going to take and the performance measures that will tell us what we are achieving from those actions. The approach encourages collaborative working and collective responsibility for delivering the outcomes we aim to achieve.
To determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the actions (and to let ourselves and others know if they are making a difference) this new approach asks three performance questions to measure the quantity, quality and impact of our performance.
How much did we do?
This ask how much effort we put in.
To measure this, we consider numbers: numbers of participants, numbers of calls answered, budget available and so on.
How well did we do it?
This asks about the quality of our effort.
We think of this in percentage terms such as the percentage of customers satisfied or percentage of calls answered on time, and so on.
What difference did it make?
This asks about the impact we have made.
We measure this in terms of the number and percentage of improvements experienced as a result of our Actions, such the number and percentage of people reporting changes in their skills or circumstances, and so on.
Actions planned for 2023/ 2024
This section sets out the actions LPS intends to take up to March 2024 in relation to the objectives of our LPS 2027 Strategy.
Many of our actions will already be underway, and some new actions will begin during the year. We expect to be able to complete some actions during the year, while other things we are doing, such as the digital transformation projects, will continue for a number of years. This business plan mainly focuses on those actions which will be delivered within the next 12 months.
Designing quality land and property services for customers
- deliver a programme of work to establish a service focused and customer centric approach to the way that we manage services
- deliver a programme of work to improve and integrate LPS services and data
- locate, map and register assets owned by NI Executive departments to build the Government Land and Property Register
Consistently delivering value across all that we do
- deliver a programme of changes and improvements to the governance arrangements in LPS
Creating the right environment for people to succeed
- deliver a programme of learning and development activities for LPS staff to develop skills, increase engagement and support positive wellbeing
Performance measures have been developed to tell us what difference we are making with the actions we take.
To determine the efficiency and effectiveness of our actions, the measures are designed to answer three questions:
How much did we do?
These are quantitative measures that tell us about how much we achieved or how much effort we put in. They are usually expressed in numbers.
How well did we do it?
These are measures of the quality of our work. They are usually expressed in percentages or proportions.
What difference did it make?
These are measures of the impact we made. These can be expressed in numbers or percentages.
The performance measures are brought together in report cards which will be further developed throughout 2023/ 2024 as we embed the new approach. Management Board will monitor progress which will be reported to all staff at regular intervals during the year.
Longer term projects
LPS is also developing and implementing a number of significant new services, products and digital solutions through projects that will take several years to complete. The key milestones we aim to achieve in relation to those projects during 2023/ 2024 are:
- implementation of the new digital solution for rates collection
- procurement of a new digital solution for land registration - award the contract to the supplier of the new digital solution
- procurement of a new digital solution for property valuation - start the Selection Questionnaire stage of the procurement process
- a Rates (Amendment) Bill - develop policy proposals that can be considered by an incoming Minister of Finance and Executive
- amendments to the Land Registration Act (Northern Ireland) 1970 - develop policy proposals that can be considered by an incoming Minister of Finance and Executive
- create a 3D extruded map of current building footprints as a prototype and have an agreed specification to collect buildings to 3D
- secure NICS Board agreement for a new strategic asset management service for the NICS