The summary, in essence, was that the pilots showed some potential but in the final analysis were "inconclusive".
When it came to finding new people to add to the register, the report concluded:
"On the whole, these pilots did not prove very effective at getting people on to the register. Despite the efforts invested by authorities in the pilots, very few additions (only 7,917) were subsequently made to the registers."
And when it came to finding people who were on the register but should not be, "most of the pilot schemes did not test this objective".
"This was in part due to a primary focus on identifying missing names and in part due to the volume and currency of the data received."
I can't help but think this was not a well-designed set of pilot schemes, but at least those involved now know what they don't know.
There seems to have been a lack of understanding between the data providers and the data users, which was exemplified by this line from the report:
"Many of the potential new electors suggested by the match with the DWP Centric database proved to be based on out of date or incorrect information. The problems posed by this could have been reduced by the inclusion of the date when the DWP record changed – something which DWP were willing to provide but were not asked to do so."
Another important point from the report was just how bad the public sector is at dealing with addresses, given how important they must be to delivering services and assessing needs.
The report said:
"The absence of a unique identifier attached to each address on the public national databases was a key issue for the pilots."
However it did add that this might be improved by the "planned inclusion of Unique Property Reference Numbers (a unique identifier for each address held) on the DWP database".
Finally, the Electoral Commission concluded that those running future pilots should "stay abreast of developments" in the government's identity assurance programme.
That is interesting, because if the source data was as difficult to use as it appeared to be, it does raise questions about how the ID assurance scheme itself will validate people against records.
For example, the tender notice for the scheme says:
"Verification will be performed in an appropriate channel (web, telephone or face to face). The provider will verify that sufficient evidence exists to verify that a person presenting on a given channel is the owner of the claimed identity"
Yet the Commission report indicates how difficult it is to match the DWP data to other official sources, let alone use it for authentication.
"There is substantial variation across local authorities regarding the level of match between the electoral registers and the DWP Centric database ranging from 45.7 per cent to 85.3 per cent.
"In total, 1,925,336 register entries were sent for matching and 1,370,006 were found on the DWP Centric database. That equates to a match level of 71.2 per cent.
"The percentage of register entries sent for matching but not found on DWP Centric varied across local authorities from 12.4 per cent to 47.6 per cent."
That said, though, part of the data-matching problem in this context was put down to the fact that electoral registers are address-based databases while DWP holds databases of people where the address is secondary.
These pilots also failed to allow enough time for proper address cleansing on both sets of data.
However, allowing for those issues the report said that in Greenwich some 11 per cent of those contacted said that a person expected to live at the property no longer did so (if they ever did), while in Camden it was nearly 14 per cent and in Wigan it was eight per cent.
So what might this mean for identity assurance and the DWP? The report says:
"These issues with the accuracy of matches or mis-matches relate primarily to the matching process used rather than the data held by DWP. The matching process was designed by Cabinet Office to allow for a wide range of possible matches and it was therefore inevitable that some apparent matches would prove to be false.
"However, it is also the case that the responses to the pilot follow-up activities are likely to understate the inaccuracies in the data as relatively few people who were written to responded either to register or to say the name 58 was incorrect. Indeed the fairly low numbers registering from the control groups compared with the overall canvass response (excluding the attainer-focused pilots) suggests that the level of inaccuracies in the data is high.
"The detailed results provided by Wigan on their control group are revealing as these names were subject to the full canvass. Of 1,138 names tracked through the canvass, 58 per cent of responses resulted in registrations that were not for the person named by the DWP at that address.
"The Colchester pilot used canvassers to follow up names suggested by matching with DWP and found similar results. The canvassers achieved 936 responses to their enquiries. Of these, 54 per cent indicated that the person had moved out, was unknown at the address or was deceased.
"DWP have indicated to us that they are aware of issues with the currency of some of the data they hold. Specifically, that the likelihood of someone having an up to date address on the DWP Centric database is related to how often they interact with DWP or another agency that feeds data into the DWP data warehouse.
"For example, DWP think it is more likely that people claiming some form of benefit will have an up-to-date address, as this is required in order to receive the benefit. On the other hand, people do not need to update their addresses in order to continue to receive their pension and many may fail to do so. DWP have also indicated that at the outset they highlighted the issue of variable data currency to the Cabinet Office as a possible issue for these pilots."
It will be interesting to see how the ID assurance programme attempts to square this circle.