These data source overviews are intended to give you a high-level view of new data sources being evaluated by the 2021 Census Transformation Programme. The emphasis is on the statistical quality of the source and how this affects the scope of its use in producing statistics, rather than the operational quality of the administrative data source. It’s anticipated this overview will be updated in future years as the understanding and use of the data progresses.

Source information

Dataset: Valuation Office Agency Data – Property Details Extract Supplier: Valuation Office Agency (VOA) Version: 02072016 delivery Geography: England and Wales Time period: One-off stock extract reflecting the period 1 April 1993 to 1 July 2016

Overview

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is an executive agency of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). It has been responsible for banding properties for Council Tax since the tax was first introduced in the early 1990s. Before this, VOA was responsible for the earlier system of domestic rates.

The Property Details dataset was introduced in the 1970s and was originally known as the Dwelling House Coding guide. Its original purpose was to provide a simple system for understanding the main features and attributes of a property. VOA datasets do not contain information about individuals or households1. The information VOA collects and holds about domestic properties supports statutory functions for valuation and maintenance of Council Tax lists under the Local Government Finance Act 1992. It’s the statutory requirement of VOA to maintain accurate valuation lists for Council Tax and every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the data. However, VOA only collects data needed to place an accurate band on the property.

Property attribute data are only updated where information comes to VOA’s attention that a valuation list entry might be inaccurate. Considerable reliance is placed upon local authorities to notify VOA of any changes (including new builds, demolitions or alterations). There can be some variability in this process and lists are only updated when new information has been brought to VOA’s attention. Therefore, there are some records in the list that will not have been updated as regularly as others.

There was a bulk capture exercise during 2003 and 2004 in England and during 2005 in Wales. The capture extracted and digitised property attributes of each dwelling from hard-copy records. Since then, the data are checked and updated whenever VOA visit the dwelling, or through their communications with billing authorities, builders, developers or the public.

Data-sharing arrangements

The VOA treats property information as personal data and access is restricted to those who need to use it. As an executive agency of HMRC, the agency is governed under the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005, which restricts access to the data.

In August 2016, we were supplied a one-off stock extract from VOA. A legal gateway has been put in place to enable VOA to provide this information to us under the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. This enables the sharing of record-level data for every private residential property paying Council Tax in England and Wales for statistical and research purposes.

The August 2016 extract contained approximately 25 million records and reflected the position as at 1 April 1993 and all subsequent changes to the data list up to 1 July 2016. Subsequently, VOA has provided changes that only reflect additions, changes or deletions to the stock extract on a monthly basis.

Access to the data is only given to our analysts who meet a set of security standards.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 amended the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 to provide us with greater and easier access to a range of data sources held within the public and private sectors, improving the quality and usability of official statistics and National Statistics. The Act creates a legal gateway for data owners to provide access to data they hold, for us to fulfil our statistical functions.

In addition to setting out strict limitations on the use of data provided in this way, the 2007 Act also contains sanctions for the unlawful disclosure of data and reinforces the protections set out in the Data Protection Act 1998. These safeguards collectively ensure data holders and the public can be confident that data will be used in a proportionate and accountable fashion to support the production of statistics and statistical research for the public good.

Content

The main variables from the VOA data include the National Land and Property Gazetteer Unique Property Reference Number (NLPG-UPRN, which provides the unique identifier with which to link to other data sources including 2011 Census and AddressBase). The individual property attributes that make up the dataset are:

  • address variables

  • property type

  • number of rooms

  • number of bedrooms

  • lowest floor level

  • number of bathrooms

  • total floor area

  • built age of property

  • central heating signal

  • conservatory type

  • conservatory area

  • parking

  • value significant codes

  • source codes

There are also numerous date variables, which are:

  • effective date of the survey

  • effective date of entry on the Council Tax list

  • date of the source codes

All outputs are aggregated at the different geographical levels. An exhaustive list of property attributes can be found in the VOA manual.

Coverage

The VOA data extract includes a record for every private residential property liable for Council Tax in England and Wales. Many of these records have been enhanced using other sources of data, including inspections and third-party data (the data are checked and updated whenever VOA visit the dwelling, or through their communications with billing authorities, builders, developers or the public).

Statistical use in Census Transformation Programme VOA data could potentially be used as an alternative source to census topics on the number of rooms and number of bedrooms, as well as providing new statistics on the characteristics of the housing stock, using the variables listed previously.

Statistical use in Census Transformation Programme

VOA data could potentially be used as an alternative source to census topics on the number of rooms and number of bedrooms, as well as providing new statistics on the characteristics of the housing stock, using the variables listed above.

Notes:

  1. The 2011 Census defines households as “one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area. A household must contain at least one person whose place of usual residence is at the address. A group of short-term residents living together is not classified as a household and neither is a group of people at an address where only visitors are staying.”

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