London On-line Local Authorities

Applications

Initial Application

The first application was Rates, a system to collect the local tax based on property values.

Click the heading to see the details.

Rates (1972)

The Rates application development team was led by Jim Cleall-Harding with Dave Hearn as his senior analyst managing the analysts and Ray Smith managing the programmers. Applications were written in IBM’s high-level Programming Language 1 (PL/1).

Besides the 2 application databases: Rates and Schedules (Landlords), 2 core index databases were created: Persons and Properties. These index databases would provide a foundation for further applications.

Development started in 1970, working theoretically with draft IMS manauals as the software was not then available at the IBM datacentre, and it would be about a year before LOLA had it's own computer. Developing this first application had mumerous technical challenges:

  1. Memory Limitations
  2. Data Conversion Corruption and Time to run
  3. Transaction Recovery Limitations
  4. Testing an On-line System with few Terminals
  5. Miners' Strikes and Power Outages

More details are provided in the Rates System 1972, Notes by Alan Cooper.

Live Running Achieved

Nevertheless, despite all the challenges, the system went live, as planned, for Haringey in April that year, the start of the government’s fiscal year. Hackney and Tower Hamlets followed in October of that year and Hillingdon the following March.

Operational Benefits

Clerks moved from batch processing, taking days or sometimes a week, to a system that was near paperless and instantly accessible using screens.

Further the same information was available to the Housing department and the new system also kept track of work in-hand. At a management level, information was now available on work loads and the work of the clerical staff was more evenly spread throughout the week.

  1. Further details: Rates System 1972, Notes by Alan Cooper, 2021-06-02 (3pp). View here [⇗]  
    Alan was a founder employee working as a Database Adminstrator in the Applications Support Team from 1970 to 1975.

  2. London Boroughs On-line rating system by S Woods, Vol 77 No 7, 1973-July View here [⇗]

  3. Experiences in Using IMS 2, A.J.O'Brien, PATRAC Conference, 1973-03-22. View here [⇗]

  4. IMS-2 at LOLA, by K.W.S. LEWIS, NCC Conference, Bristol, November 1973 View here [⇗]

Click here to close the above

Further Applications

Over the next two decades almost 30 more systems of varying complexity were developed. Many were developed or continuously modified in response to changing central government legislation.

Click a heading to see the details. Click another heading to close.

Property Information and Progressing System (PIPS) (1972)

PIPS was a generalised highly flexible Property based on-line system which enabled the implementation of many property based functions, normally without the need for development of additional software.

PIPS functions implemented included Housing Voids, Planning, Environmental Health and Improvement Grants. Data extracts could be generated using FOCUS.

Naturally it linked to the central Property and Names databases established by the Rates application.

  1. Ref: PIPS - Property Information & Progressing System 1972, Notes by Philip Brown 2021-05-10 (1pp). View here [⇗]  Phil was the Project Manager for development of the LOLA PIPS application from circa 1980.

Financial Management (1973)

Another early application was Financial Management, supporting the concept of 'cost centres' 20. It went live in late 1973. The application added further 5 physical data bases per borough bring the total number of physical databases to 36. The number of terminal was planned to grow to 100 by 1976.

  1. London boroughs 'on-line', Derek Schartau, Head of Computer Services, LOLA (London On-line Local Authorities), Municipal and Public Services Journal, 29 December 1972 View here [⇗]   

Work Planning & Control Awaiting information.

Principally detailed progressing of maintenance work on council property e.g. houses, schools.

Creditors Awaiting information.

Income Awaiting information.

Manpower Utilisation Awaiting information.

Vaccination and Immunisation Records Awaiting information.

Transport Control Awaiting information.

Questionnaire Analysis Awaiting information.

Co-ordination of Capital Projects Awaiting information.

Land Charges and Property Register Awaiting information.

Lettings and Property Management Awaiting information.

Housing Rents Awaiting information.

Rent Rebate and Rate Rebate System (1982)

Due to the very limited timescale available to develop a system to meet the statutory deadline of 1 April 1982, the decision was made to base the system data structure on defined PIPS functions, rather than develop new IMS databases from scratch. This enabled a more rapid development of the system.

The most innovative facilities enabled on-line retrospective calculations of Rent / Rate rebates back to any date in the past, over unlimited multiple Rebate history periods.

  1. Ref: Housing Rent & Rebates 1982, Notes by Philip Brown 2021-05-10 (2pp). View here [⇗]   Phil was the Project Manager for development of the Housing Rent & Rebates application.

Stores Application (mid 1980s) Awaiting information.

Initially the Stores application team tried some new technology in the form of MARK IV/V but reverted to the trusted PL/1 & IMS.

  1. As recalled in January 2021 by Jeremy Leighton (at LOLA from 1980-93).

Payroll Awaiting information.

Housing Benefits (Private & Public Sectors) (1988)

Housing Benefits was designed to be an on-line and batch system based on IMS databases, to enable on-line real-time calculations of Housing Benefits (rent and rate rebates) for Public tenants and Private tenants. Rate rebates for Owner-occupiers was also included.

The most innovative facility, enabled on-line retrospective calculations of Housing Benefits back to any date in the past, over unlimited multiple Housing Benefit history periods.

  1. Ref: Housing Benefits 1988, Notes by Philip Brown, 2021-05-10 (3pp). View here [⇗]   Phil was the Project Manager for development of the Housing Benefits application.

Pensions Administration (c1988) Awaiting information.

Electoral Roll (late 1980s) Awaiting information.

Community Charge (1990)
1989c Community Charge Application Suite GanttChart © MJ

In 1990 Rates was replaced by Community Charge130 (dubbed the Poll Tax). Whereas Rates was based on a notional rental value of a property, Community Charge was a tax charge on each adult living in a property.

The Community Charge development commenced in 1987 with Martin Jackson as the project manager with Steve Barfield and Nigel Stratton-Fidel the main programmers.

  1. Ref: LOLA Community Charge 1990, Notes by Martin Jackson, 2021-07-01   

Community Charge Benefits (1990)

The Community Charge Benefits development commenced in 1989 with. Phil Brown as the project manager. 140.

The system was designed to be an on-line and batch system based on IMS databases, to enable on-line real-time calculations of Community Charge Benefits for Public tenants, Private tenants and owner occupiers. The system was integrated with the LOLA developed Community Charge system and Housing Benefits systems.

In 2002 Tower Hamlets retained ITNET to manage the LOLA systems for the borough (the other boroughs having left LOLA). Also transferring to ITNET were Martin Jackson (programmer), Matthew James (Systems Analyst), Brian Woodyatt (Systems Analyst) and David Turvey (programmer). For the full team see the Staff page.

  1. Ref: LOLA Community Charge Benefits System 1990, Notes by Murali Vidyadharan, 2021-05-22 (2pp). View here [⇗]   Murali Vidyadharan was the Lead Systems Analyst for the Community Charge Benefits system and became the manager from 1999.  

Non Domestic Rates (1990) Awaiting information.

The Non Domestic Rates (i.e. Business Rates) development commenced in 1989.

Internal Billing (c1991)

In c1991 Internal Billing started as a development in FOCUS, which had only been used for reporting up till then. It then got rewritten in the latest language PRO-IV and [possibly] was the first port of a mainframe application to Unix for Hillingdon.

  1. As recalled in January 2021 by Jeremy Leighton (at LOLA from 1980-93).

Social Services Client Index for Haringey (1991)

In 1991 LOLA acquired PRO-IV as a strategic 4GL and LOLA took over support of the PRO-IV Social Services Client Index for Haringey. Several smaller applications were written with PRO-IV as the front end.1

  1. As recalled in March 2021 by Jeremy Leighton (at LOLA from 1980-93).

Council Tax (1993)

In 1993 Community Charge was replaced by Council Tax. Like the earlier Rates system, Council Tax was based on property, not residents. Houses were valued and allocated into bands from A to H with each band being levied a tax charge.

At this time the 4 boroughs went to the market to select a software supplier. Tower Hamlets selected IBS Council Tax only, the others went for Sx3 (now Northgate) Council Tax and Benefits systems 190.

  1. As recalled in March 2021 by Murali Vidhyadharan (at LOLA from 1989-2006 and previously at Tower Hamlets from 1985).   

Council Tax Benefits (1993)

The original Council Tax Benefits system development was commissioned by Tower Hamlets only. The development commenced in 1992 and went live in April 1993.

Council Tax Benefits system was designed to be an on-line and batch system based on IMS databases, to enable on-line real-time calculations of Council Tax Benefits for Public tenants, Private tenants and owner occupiers. The system was integrated with the LOLA developed Housing Benefits systems. It was also integrated with the IBS Council Tax system chosen by Tower Hamlets by LOLA developing a 2-way interface.

This team also supported Housing Benefits and in in 2002 (under ITNET) developed a web based Free School Meals that interfaced to the Benefits system.

Hackney were unhappy with Sx3 Benefits system after implementation and requested LOLA to migrate them to the LOLA Council Tax Benefits system and build a 2-way interface to Sx3 Council Tax system. This was successfully achieved in 1995. Steve Barield, Nigel and later on Martin Jackson all worked on this development. For the full team see the Staff page.

However, a few years later in 2002 ITNET won the Hackney IT contract and they migrated away from LOLA systems in 2004.

  1. Ref: LOLA Council Tax Benefits System 1993, Notes by Murali Vidhyadharan, 2021-05-22 (2pp). View here [⇗]   Murali Vidyadharan was the Project Leader and Deputy Project Manager and subsequently took over a Project Manager in 1999.  

Memo System

LOLA implemented a Memo System from Verimation whereby people in the boroughs and at LOLA who had access to a VDU could send messages to each other. This was well before the world wide web and email systems!

  1. All above as recalled in February 2021 by Martin Jackson (at LOLA from 1970-2006 and previously at LBMSU from 1968).