Online council resident parking and roadwork services getting better, says Socitm

Public sector IT leadership group’s latest ‘Better Connected’ analysis finds much evidence of Town Hall digital improvement in an area that really matters to residents – parking

Posted 20 April 2017 at 9:23am by

Council online services for resident parking and roadworks are good and improving.

The findings are from public sector IT leadership organisation Socitm via its research programme that tries to look at online local government services from a customer perspective, Better Connected.

Its data shows 67% of London boroughs provide a ‘good or very good’ service for those applying for resident parking permits, while 85% of county councils provide similar levels of responsiveness for finding out about roadworks.

Parking is a major issue for residents in urban areas and applying for a resident’s permit for the first time requires proof of eligibility, says the team. Councils currently handle this is a variety of different ways, and its survey tried to assess the usefulness of the information provided at different points in the process and how easy it is to apply online, from a mobile phone (on the basis that for many people today, mobile is the main or only personal access they may have to the internet).

The bad news here is that 82% of councils enable online applications, but only 39 have their forms optimised for mobile use -often because the application required use of a corporate forms portal where no forms were mobile optimised.

Services are improving, though – as the last time Better Connected looked at parking permit applications, 2014-15, when the task was about renewal rather than first time applications, 61% of London boroughs got the equivalent of today’s ‘good or very good’ score, with a less testing question set.

Some sites still indicate lack of consideration of the customer perspective, however. “Timescales for processing the application and posting permits were only given in half of the sites that were fully reviewed. This overlooks a key preoccupation for new applicants struggling to park near their home, and is likely to lead to ‘avoidable contacts’ from applicants unsure of when they can expect to receive their permits.

“Some of the best parking services are using technology to overcome the need for physical permits or for there to be any delay between application and being able to use the permit,” states the survey.

Hackney, Redbridge, Richmond and Wandsworth were all cited for “best practice” level delivery on this task by the Better Connected process.

Visits to council websites about roadworks are part of the wider ‘mobility’ category (including parking, highways, streetworks, transport and buses) that is the single biggest reason people visit council websites after rubbish and recycling.  People are seeking up-to-date information about roadworks that will affect them for one off journeys, but particularly for long-running works will be are part of daily or weekly routines for a several weeks.

There has been a dramatic improvement by county councils since the last time Better Connected conducted this test in 2014when only 48% of them were designated the equivalent of good or very good. A key factor then was over-reliance on not very usable map-based information, and a lack of browseable lists, which can be a quick and useful alternative when using a mobile device in a poor signal area, says the group, but this time 85% have been designated good or very good, with 55% achieving the top mark.

Mapping on local authority websites has tended to be problematic from mobile devices, says the analysis, but using the third party roadworks.org overcomes this, although it becomes more difficult to use when the map is embedded in a council site web page instead of being launched into a new window.

Other shortcomings in implementing the service included failing to ensure the user landed on map in the local area and not providing key information about how to use the map, providing information directed at highways professionals rather than road users, and not making it easy enough to sign up for email alerts.

Reviewers were also disappointed that most councils no longer publish the roadworks register in a list format. For someone wishing to look up details of roadworks they are aware of this, would still be the fastest route it points out, believing that the best sites offered both the list format and the map route.

Coverage by councils of major planned works was much better, with a wealth of information and photographs provided for some schemes.

Use of Twitter was widespread, with dedicated accounts for transport giving updates on current roadworks and live incidents. County Councils recommended for this task were Devon, Hertfordshire, North Yorkshire and Northamptonshire.

Go here for more details (free to view):

The surveys

Individual council scores.