Socitm study finds improved online council parking and roadwork services
Latest survey of key services offered by UK local authorities finds broad increase in quality of online functions to support parking permits and road information
A new Socitm survey has concluded that 67% of London boroughs and 85% of county councils in the country were providing good or very good online services for applying for parking permits and accessing roadwork information respectively.
Part of the public sector IT managers group Socitm Better Connected survey, devised to research and measure online performance for 418 UK local authorities, the latest findings are said to show improving performance in both service categories by councils.
“Both services were tested on a mobile device. One county council and two London boroughs still have websites that are not optimised for mobiles, and following Better Connected practice, surveys were not completed for these councils,” said Socitm of the latest findings.
On the whole, Socitm argued that the provision of the services were found through the survey to have improved on a similar study from 2014-15, which looked at online offerings to renew parking permits, as opposed to first time applications.
However concerns did exist that some council and authority sites had not sufficiently considered customer needs in allowing access to their services. Only half the sites fully reviewed for the Better Connected survey were found to provided timescales for the application and posting of permits.
“This overlooks a key preoccupation for new applicants struggling to park near their home, and is likely to lead to ‘avoidable contacts’ from new residents unsure of for how long they need to make alternative arrangements to park their car,” said Socitm. “Some of the best parking services are using technology to overcome the need for physical permits or any delay between application and being able to use the permit.”
Better Connected singled out Hackney, Redbridge, Richmond and Wandsworth as representing best practice for this particular focus.
In specifically focusing on access to roadwork information online, Socitm said the function was part of broader ‘mobility’ category of services that include parking, highways, transport and streetwork functions that are seen as the key reasons for people to visit council websites after refuge collection.
Ensuring up-to-date information on major and long-term works was seen as a particular concern for online services. A previous Better Connected test undertaken in 2014 found only 48% of councils provided services rated as 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,” said the study,
The latest findings showed that 85% of authorities had been classed as good or very good, an improvement built on a growing number of councils embedding the roadworks.org map functions into their sites.
“Mapping on local authority websites has tended to be problematic from mobile devices 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,” said the Better Connected survey. “Other shortcomings in implementing the service included failing to ensure the user landed on map in the local area, 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 who conducted the survey did express disappointment over a majority of councils being found to have failed to publish their roadworks register in a list format that is believed to be the most efficient route to find details of possible disruptions. However, council coverage of major works information was seen as being much better, both in terms of detials provided via their websites, but also through social media channels such as Twitter accounts focused on up to date transport updates.