London Brent Council gains single citizen view with master data hub

The London Borough of Brent’s master data hub has enabled it to collect more revenue, beat fraud and gain a single citizen view.

The London Borough of Brent’s master data management (MDM) hub has not only facilitated revenue collection and beat fraud, it's now helping respond to changing central government demands. Brent Chief Information Officer Tony Ellis is confident that the MDM programme he has driven since moving to the council in 2005 will continue to accrue benefits.

Brent serves 280,000 people with 800 services across education, social care, emergency services and so on. “It is a diverse population,” Ellis said, “with a high level of immigration that makes matching names challenging. We wanted to get a single, holistic ‘golden view’ of the customer, rather than just on a service-by-service basis. Typically, one part of the council would know something about you that another wouldn’t; for example, that you had died.”

Based on IBM’s Initiate matching engine, Brent’s “client index” is an MDM hub pulling in 1.5 million records from 10 systems.

Other local authorities under cost pressure from a central government committed to eliminate the UK’s deficit via budget cuts are turning to Brent for guidance, Ellis said. Brent itself needs to save £100m over the next four years, he confirmed. The government’s Comprehensive Spending Review meant a decline in funding by 36% to £26.1m

A typical annual 30% turnover in population puts pressure on getting in revenue from Council Tax. There was also a disparity between central government’s reckoning of Brent’s population and the council—255,000 as opposed to 280,000. That mattered because central government funding depends on population.

Getting a more accurate view, with a nightly refresh of the data, means that the council can “close down services earlier,” Ellis said. They have also clamped down on “[disabled] blue badge abuse” and on Council Tax fraud around the single person discount. The council collected an extra £800,000 in 2010, and the MDM hub technology was key to that, he told the audience at IRM UK’s 2011 Master Data Management summit in London in March.

“This [the MDM hub] is very strategic for us," he said. "We have a CRM system, but that is just a source, it’s not our definitive customer database. The [MDM] hub gives you the flexibility to respond to new initiatives. It’s vitally important that IT is not seen as a barrier to change. That’s not a good place for a CIO to be!”

Brent plans to put more services online so that people can self-serve rather than come in to the council’s offices or phone. And in line with the government’s policy preference of ceding power from the state to individuals is the council’s involvement with a MyDex “personal data store” project. Ellis also chairs Data Connect, a local government data management best practice group, to spread the word about the value for MDM hubs.

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