Revs and Bens

This project, led by Teignbridge District Council, kicked off a 12-week alpha in February 2022.

Revenue and Benefits systems are one of the key digital systems for all local authorities; processing payments to local businesses, council tax payers and hundreds of low income households on a weekly basis. Every council in the country is required to process Revenue and Benefits data, either in-house or using an outsourced model.

Following a discovery in Spring 2021 – which explored if there is a need to build a new IT platform for local government, and how it might be done – the project is using the alpha to:

  • address the user needs identified during the discovery
  • develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to help Teignbridge identify other local authorities who might benefit from this service

The discovery phase revealed that there was major dissatisfaction with the existing market offering for revenues and benefits systems, but at the same time, there was a sense of unease about switching to alternatives. This is due to the critical nature of these systems in managing the income for councils, as well as paying out vital benefits to residents

Sedgemoor District Council have been operating their own, in-house, revenues and benefits system since the 1990s, and have started a project to develop an entirely new version that is cloud-native, open and flexible. The potential for the sector is huge if this system can be made open source so as many councils can use and support it as possible.

Project objectives

We want to achieve three things:

  1. Technical: To successfully set up a working version of the Sedgemoor business rates system for at least one council, and to import the data from their existing systems into it. Also, to prove that common integrations are possible, both via batch and API.
  2. Governance: To recommend to arrange support and governance arrangements for the system were it to be published as open source software.
  3. User experience: To understand the needs of local businesses with regards to business rates, and identify any opportunities to provide a more joined-up experience with other council services.

Project timeline

December 2021

The Revs and Bens project is awarded £148,000 of funding through the Continuous Funding Model to undertake an alpha phase.

The project will use the funding for an Alpha phase, to:

  • address the user needs identified during the discovery
  • develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to help Teignbridge identify other local authorities who might benefit from this service

 

February 2022

May 2022

This alpha project has now been running for seven of its allotted 12 weeks.

For the technical workstream, the project:

  • now has a working version of the software running in Leeds Council’s cloud environment
  • has exported the data from Leeds’ current system, cleaned it up and mapped the minimum viable set of data, so they could begin importing it into their version of the Sedgemoor system

For the governance workstream, the project:

  • has a detailed set of requirements for the governance of the project moving forward — this includes not just applying the most suitable licence to the code, but also creating a community of users around the software to support its maintenance and development in the future
  • has spoken with other local government open source software projects, such as LocalGovDrupal, to find out how they are approaching things
  • has researched and documented the various potential approaches, based on well-known, open-source projects such as Linux, WordPress and others

For the user experience workstream, the project:

  • has created a research plan outlining the key milestones for the project over the
    next few weeks
  • began recruitment for in-depth interviews with businesses, key stakeholders and agents that currently support business rates

The project also published a video demonstration of the Sedgemoor business rates system. It demonstrates how the system looks and feels, as well as the processes that staff would follow when using it.

June 2022

The team are racing towards the final week of development, with the final Show and Tell organised for Wednesday 15 June.

An article from the Project Lead about the Revs and Bens project has just been published in INSIGHT magazine.

As part of this alpha, the team are now focussing on reporting on:

  • headlines and goals for the project
  • key workstreams and activities
  • learnings and recommendations
  • key outcomes, outputs and deliverables

July 2022

The Rev and Bens Open Source Alpha project is now complete! This project is an important step forward in delivering more choice for local authorities in the Revenue and Benefits software market.  The team are holding their final Show and Tell on Monday 11 July at 2pm to recap on:

  • their experiences of converting data from one of the three major software suppliers in the market to give proof of concept on data migration
  • potential governance arrangements for any new software deployed
  • what their users and practitioners tell them they want from the system
  • the new Sedgemoor software in action

Watch a recording after the session.

September 2022

Amanda Pujol (Teignbridge Alpha lead), Paul Davidson (Chief Information Officer, Sedgemoor District Council) and Tom Lowndes (Collaboration Manager, Local Digital) recently delivered a presentation to representatives from the Japan Local Government Centre in the stunning surroundings of Teignbridge’s Old Forde House. They discussed the challenges of delivering digital services for residents and the support from central government through the Local Digital Fund.

The Teignbridge project team is also exploring the potential for using the Continuous Funding Model to support the next stage of building and testing a Revenues and Benefits integration product and service.