Recently we’ve been working with Buckinghamshire Council on introducing some new functionality to FixMyStreet Pro, our integrated street, highway and environment reporting service, to enable automatic triaging of reports to town and parish councils, and better ways of passing reports between authorities.
Parish and town councils cover almost the entirety of England and Wales, except for the main urban areas. There are 10,000 parish or town councils in England (National Association for Local Councils), and over 730 town and community councils in Wales (Welsh Local Government Association).
These councils take responsibility for a variety of things within the community, such as bridleways, bus shelters and litter bins, and they sit within larger principal authorities which may also sometimes be responsible for the same things in certain cases.
For this reason, when there’s a problem that needs reporting, it can be hard for citizens to know which level of authority is responsible for what problem and when.
FixMyStreet has always been able to automatically divert fault reports to other councils and authorities, based on the location and category of the report – but not at the parish level. Until now.
With the new functionality in place, parish and town councils can be set up as sub-bodies to a principal council within its instance of FixMyStreet Pro, and on the national FixMyStreet site.
This way, categories can be assigned to more than one body, and asset layers can be placed over the map to enable the service to work out for the report-maker whether the report needs to go to the principal authority or the parish level council.
Buckinghamshire Council is a unitary authority, but the county itself is made up entirely of parish and town councils. Residents can report numerous issues via Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro site, some of which are the responsibility of the unitary council, others the responsibility of the parishes.
Previously, Buckinghamshire staff were forwarding reports to individual parish councils wherever necessary, but this wasn’t ideal, so they asked us to make it possible for FixMyStreet Pro to work out for the resident where the report needs to go, and to send it there without the need for any manual intervention.
For example, any reports of fly posting are now diverted straight to the correct parish, based on the geo location information provided within the report.
In more complex cases, such as grass cutting, the recipient of these reports depends on the speed limit of the road. So, at one end of the road a grass cutting report might need to go to the parish, but at the other end of the road the report needs to go to the unitary council.
Thankfully, the report-maker never needs to worry about this, because Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro uses a speed limit asset layer, in addition to the geo-location and category, to work out where to send the report.
Additionally, from Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro site, you can now view each individual parish or town council on its own map, along with the reports it has received.
While Buckinghamshire and its parishes were the focus when building this new functionality, a few of the features we introduced are beneficial to all users of FixMyStreet Pro.
Arguably the most important one of these features is the ability to provide updates on reports without integration into a backend system.
As you can imagine, most small parish or town councils don’t have expensive backend systems from which to manage inbound reports. In the past, whenever there’s been no backend system with which to integrate FixMyStreet Pro to facilitate a two-way flow of data, the only option would have been to email the reports.
In the spirit of keeping the feedback loop closed and being able to publicly display a report’s status (eg ‘fixed’ or ‘in progress’) on the site, we’ve made it possible for parish councils to update reports via email using a special code in the subject line, which will correspond to the new status of the report.
Of course, lots of councils or other authorities receiving reports from FixMyStreet may not have a backend system, so this feature is a really positive step forward in ensuring that feedback can always be provided transparently via the platform.
Another feature that will be of use to more than just parish and town councils and their principal authorities is the ability to specify different text to be displayed on the public report update and the private update sent directly to the report-maker.
This is useful for sharing any extra information that you may not want to display publicly, such as feedback surveys.
Finally, Buckinghamshire wanted to be able to recategorise reports, because citizens sometimes select the wrong category. This could lead to reports being sent to a parish council when they should go to the unitary council, or vice versa.
Now, council staff have the option to reassign a category if needed, which will ensure the report gets to the right place in the end.
For more information about FixMyStreet Pro, you can contact us here.
Image: Beth Jnr on Unsplash
SocietyWorks’ parent charity mySociety is looking for local authorities to take part in a funded prototyping project aimed at helping to decarbonise households and make them more energy efficient.
It’s our intention that this prototype will assist citizens in reducing domestic energy consumption, thereby saving them money, while also helping councils to reduce domestic carbon emissions and make net zero obligations more achievable.
This follows another exciting prototyping project run by the Climate team earlier this year, which saw various stakeholders from across local government and civil society come together for six weeks of prototyping to explore potential solutions for six different climate focused-projects. Take a look at one of the home energy prototypes that was developed through this project.
During the next phase of this work we’ll develop one or more solutions to the problems we’ve identified so far. We’ll focus on our riskiest assumptions, or the biggest challenges that a new service might face. That could focus on encouraging residents to act together, and we’re excited to see where that leads!
Councils of all shapes and sizes from across the UK are invited to take part.
The Climate team is particularly keen to hear from councils that are already taking steps to encourage energy efficiency, or have established retrofit coordinators and/or planning officers with a focus on decarbonisation and raising energy efficiency standards.
The potential to share your needs to shape the development of a digital service that can be used in further funding pitches to ultimately help you and your residents to improve energy efficiency and save money.
Plus, we hope there might be opportunities to foster new relationships with other local authorities and innovators leading the way in retrofit and home energy.
No, this is a funded project, so there will be no cost to councils interested in getting involved at the prototyping stage.
Essentially, you can be involved as much or as little as you like – whether that’s by simply sharing some knowledge or experience via email, engaging via a video call or exploring the possibility of piloting a digital service in your area.
Please contact Siôn Elis Williams (email@example.com), Outreach & Networks Coordinator for mySociety’s Climate Programme, who is leading on this project.
We’d like to hear from any interested councils between now and March 2023, at which point we hope to start testing one or more potential solutions.
If you’d like to know more about the sort of projects run by the Climate team, you can catch up on the mySociety blog.
Image: Richard Bell
The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has chosen SocietyWorks’ self-service waste portal WasteWorks, for managing resident access to waste online more efficiently and transparently, starting with garden waste and looking ahead to incorporate wider domestic waste services.
Residents of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames will now be able to access the council’s garden waste services via a dedicated version of SocietyWorks’ new online waste portal WasteWorks, which was launched in 2021 in collaboration with Bromley Council and Veolia. Using the portal, residents will be able to view their garden waste subscriptions, order new containers and use one-off card payments for non recurring subscriptions, all within the same workflow. There will soon be a Direct Debit function for residents to use for recurring subscriptions, too. While initially focused on improving the resident experience for garden waste, plans are in place to roll WasteWorks out to manage the council’s wider domestic waste service transactions.
Optimised to work on whatever device residents want to use, WasteWorks will enable the Council to provide a more convenient and seamless online experience for residents thanks to integration with the council’s in-cab system provided by Veolia Echo and payment provider Capita. WasteWorks will also help to deliver a more transparent waste service by enabling a two-way flow of information to keep residents informed on the status of their waste subscriptions, payments, reports and requests. Customer services will be able to use the same user-centred workflow to manage waste subscriptions on behalf of residents over the phone.
The introduction of WasteWorks, which was recently shortlisted for a LGC Award 2022 in conjunction with Bromley Council, is a joint venture between the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Sutton, whose own dedicated version of the portal is currently in development. This comes as part of the ongoing improvements being established by the South London Waste Partnership, of which both Kingston and Sutton are members. The two councils approached SocietyWorks to help further digitise their existing online domestic waste system and move towards a consistent approach to online waste services across the boroughs, which will also benefit their shared waste provider Veolia by improving communication between its in-cab system, the councils and residents.
Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks said: “We’re delighted to be helping the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames bring its online waste system in line with resident expectations. It’s always a pleasure to work with councils that not only put resident needs first, but also work very collaboratively with neighbouring councils and their other external partners to deliver more wide-reaching improvements. We look forward to helping more councils across the UK do the same.”
Councillor John Sweeney, Portfolio Holder for Business, Recycling and Customer Contact added: “We are excited to be one of the first boroughs to use this innovative system. This new online portal will allow residents to more easily keep track of their subscription payments. It is great to know that this system has been developed with another London council and we look forward to rolling it out across the borough.”
Scott Edgell, General Manager, Veolia SLWP said: “Our teams work hard to serve over 70,000 Kingston households with recycling and waste collections, including 14,000 signed up to the garden waste collection service. We’re so pleased to be supporting Kingston Council with the implementation of their new waste portal with the help of SocietyWorks, so that the high quality service we strive to deliver to residents is reflected in a better experience online, and look forward to the platform’s development in Sutton.”
Peterborough City Council has broadened its partnership with SocietyWorks to handle domestic waste online through its new WasteWorks service.
Peterborough City Council has adopted WasteWorks, a new waste service from citizen-focused local authority services provider SocietyWorks, to improve the way residents access waste online. The new service will empower residents to easily self-serve reports and requests from any device, while helping the council to streamline processes, deliver faster resolutions and reduce demand on customer contact centres thanks to an automatic two-way flow of data from front to backend system.
Integrated directly into Peterborough’s in-cab system Bartec and branded to complement the council’s website, WasteWorks will allow residents to manage all of their waste requirements from one place, whether it’s to report a missed bin collection or to pay for a bulky waste collection – which is currently being worked on and set to be delivered later this year. Behind the scenes, the service will seamlessly feed information between citizen, administrator and inspector, helping the council to better manage expectations and close the feedback loop through automated notifications and intelligent tools for on-the-ground inspectors.
This is the second SocietyWorks service to have been adopted by Peterborough City Council, which has been successfully using FixMyStreet Pro to take reports from residents about street and highways problems since 2019. The council will be able to access both WasteWorks and FixMyStreet Pro reports from a central dashboard, which includes a live heatmap to track category, seasonal and area-based trends.
Councillor Nigel Simons, cabinet member for Waste, Street Scene and the Environment, said: “We are fully committed to improving waste services across Peterborough and as part of this commitment, we want to enhance the way residents access services online. The new WasteWorks service will make a positive difference and I would encourage residents to log on and see for themselves.”
Councillor Marco Cereste, cabinet member for Digital Services and Transformation, added: “We want to engage better with residents online and enhance the overall user experience. This is a big step forwards and just the start of improvements to our online services.”
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Peterborough City Council again. By integrating both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks into its line of business systems, the council and its residents will benefit from a truly joined-up reporting service that puts user-friendliness at its heart.
“Peterborough is a really forward-thinking council, and it’s been a real pleasure to collaborate with the team on this project and build a service that works around the real-life needs of residents and staff.”
Residents in Peterborough can access the new waste service right now.
WasteWorks is available to all UK councils. Request a demo to find out more.
Merton Council has joined a growing number of London boroughs using SocietyWorks’ FixMyStreet Pro service to process reports from residents about local environment issues.
Londoners living in the borough of Merton can now make reports about environment issues such as fly-tipping and graffiti via the council’s newly launched FixMyStreet Pro service. Developed by SocietyWorks, the subsidiary of civic technology charity mySociety, FixMyStreet Pro is focused on helping citizens be active members of their community by making it easy to report problems and closing the feedback loop between council and resident.
FixMyStreet is an extremely user-friendly platform, and it will make it even easier for our residents to play their part.
Councillor Natasha Irons, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Local Environment and Green Spaces
Merton Council is one of several London authorities to use FixMyStreet Pro and benefit from its intelligent functionality to handle the complex routing of inbound street and environment reports, automatically ensuring everything goes to the correct place, including being able to divert reports to Transport for London where relevant. With integration into Merton’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM system, FixMyStreet Pro acts as the user-friendly front door to environment reports, with a simple, fully-optimised interface that works perfectly on any device and facilitates a two-way flow of data so that report-makers can stay up to date with the progress of their reports.
Councillor Natasha Irons, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Local Environment and Green Spaces: “Merton is a great place to live, work and visit but, like all London boroughs, we’re seeing too many people abusing our public spaces with environmental crimes like fly-tipping and littering. We want everyone to take care and pride in their neighbourhoods and behave considerately, so that everyone can enjoy our great borough. FixMyStreet is an extremely user-friendly platform, and it will make it even easier for our residents to play their part.”
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “FixMyStreet Pro provides London councils with a key opportunity to join a community of authorities and other agencies delivering a truly efficient and joined-up service. We’re delighted to welcome Merton into the FixMyStreet family, and we’re excited to continue working together to build a stronger, more active community.”
FixMyStreet Pro is now up and running in Merton. Residents can use the service to report local environment issues.
Want to explore how FixMyStreet Pro could work for you? Request a demo with the SocietyWorks team here.
Bromley Council has partnered with SocietyWorks to launch WasteWorks, a new online waste service to take the rubbish out of handling domestic, bulky and green waste online.
Designed by SocietyWorks in consultation with Bromley Council, WasteWorks empowers citizens to manage their own waste online, thanks to a self-service system that is easy to use on any device and which adheres to government accessibility standards.
What residents can do via Bromley Council’s new waste service:
Integrated directly into Bromley’s Waste Contractor’s system and branded to complement the council’s website, WasteWorks acts as a user-friendly front door for residents to submit waste reports, requests and payments, while taking care of the complex data flow between different line of business systems behind the scenes.
The result is a dramatically improved user experience for residents and a significantly reduced burden on customer contact centre staff, who can break away from expensive manual processes and re-keying.
Plus, automated updates and templated responses make it easier for Bromley to manage expectations, handle seasonal demand and deliver a more transparent service, while internal dashboards and visual heat maps enable staff to track service levels and identify trends.
Jim Cowan, Waste Services Contract Manager at Bromley Council said: “WasteWorks builds on the previous online reporting we had within our Waste Services area, offering our residents a level of self-service for our Green Garden Waste subscriptions which has been a long-held ambition. The ability to adjust and tweak customer messaging and templates through the administration area allows us to respond quickly and keep the customers informed as we take them through the process, which helps us drive down those avoidable contacts and queries.”
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “For councils that are, like Bromley, serious about improving citizen access to waste services online, WasteWorks is an essential solution that provides a real opportunity to achieve much-sought after channel shift, create savings and drive efficiencies for citizens and staff.”
Residents in Bromley can access the new waste service right now – take a look.
WasteWorks is available to all UK councils – request a demo to see how it could work for you.
Image: Shane Rounce
FixMyStreet Pro’s ability to handle the complex routing of inbound street and highways reports really comes into its own in London.
With thirty-two different boroughs and multiple public authorities taking responsibility for keeping the Capital’s cogs turning, the process of reporting problems in London can be somewhat of a tangled web for residents that aren’t sure who’s responsible for what, and for councils whose teams and internal systems are working in silo, leading to more phone calls, more emails, more duplication of effort and slower response times.
FixMyStreet Pro has the intelligent functionality to connect everything together for councils using the service, and automatically reroute reports from one authority to another – and it works at its best when everyone is using it to its full potential.
That’s why earlier this week we hosted a focused workshop for our growing contingent of London-based FixMyStreet Pro customers to share best practice ideas for how to get the most out of the service and maximise user uptake.
Transport for London (TfL)’s Customer Services Delivery Manager Fola Olafare kicked things off by talking through how FixMyStreet Pro (known by TfL as Street Care) has been working for them since its launch in 2019, and their ambitious aims for expanding the service’s reach and impact over the next eighteen months.
Fola’s presentation ended with a lively group discussion in which attendees from Hounslow Highways and the London Boroughs of Bromley, Hackney, Merton and Westminster bounced their best ideas around for accelerating channel shift.
Next up we heard two case studies on successfully establishing FixMyStreet Pro as your channel of choice for taking reports from citizens.
Tracy Eaton, newly-appointed Product Owner for FixMyStreet Pro at Buckinghamshire Council, where 61% of reports are now being made via FixMyStreet Pro, spoke about the importance of making use of the service’s ability to feed detailed and transparent information back to citizens, and how, by using FixMyStreet Pro’s map asset layers, duplicate reports for related categories have dropped down to just 0.05%.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Richards, Business Support & Market Manager at Bromley Council, shared some insight into Bromley’s channel shift journey with FixMyStreet Pro, which now accounts for a whopping 94% of all inbound reports.
For our final session of the workshop, SocietyWorks’ Senior Developer Matthew Somerville gave a detailed demonstration of what is, arguably, the most intelligent and useful feature of FixMyStreet Pro for London boroughs: its ability to display assets and categories that are the responsibility of another authority on the map, and to reroute any reports pertaining to those categories.
This particular feature of FixMyStreet Pro reflects the key functionality of the national FixMyStreet.com service, which allows citizens to make reports to councils and ensures those reports go to the correct place. After all, most citizens don’t care about whether an issue is the responsibility of one council or another, and nor should they have to; they just want to make a report and receive updates about its progress.
The difference with the Pro version is that everything is integrated with councils’ backend systems, so not only do reports go to the correct place, but they also require no manual intervention from staff, and facilitate a seamless two-way transfer of data.
Take the London Borough of Bexley’s version of FixMyStreet Pro as an example. As well as allowing residents to select from a list of categories that are the responsibility of the borough, Bexley also displays categories for reports that need to go to TfL (eg. Abandoned Santander Cycles), if and when a resident clicks on the ‘red route’ area of the map.
Any reports made on a ‘red route’ will automatically be sent to TfL, creating a really smooth experience for the report-maker and saving Bexley the trouble of having to deal with an irrelevant report.
In cases where a report could still be the responsibility of TfL, but it’s not on a ‘red route’, FixMyStreet Pro will work that out and send the report to TfL instead of to Bexley. Take the example below, which shows TfL’s traffic lights asset layer displayed on Bexley’s reporting service, ensuring that the report will not only go to the right place, but gives the most accurate information when it arrives.
Vice versa, on TfL’s version of FixMyStreet Pro, Street Care, should a citizen go to make a report about an issue on a ‘red route’, they will be able to choose from a variety of categories, most of which are the responsibility of TfL, some of which aren’t.
For example, if a citizen heads to Street Care and tries to report some litter on the road, they will be advised that this report needs to be dealt with by the borough, and will be able to click through to the national FixMyStreet.com site where the report information will be carried over, causing no interruption to the report-making process.
Equally, if a citizen tries to report a problem via Street Care and drops the map pin on a road that’s not maintained by TfL, this will be explained clearly and, again, the report-maker will be able to click through to a pre-filled report on FixMyStreet.com.
It’s not obligatory for our London borough councils to display ‘red routes’ and redirect reports to other authorities, but Matthew’s demonstration provided ample inspiration for how transformational doing so can be to the user experience.
For London boroughs, FixMyStreet Pro is a powerful tool for channel shift and presents a crucial opportunity to join a community of councils and other authorities delivering a truly efficient and joined-up service.
Image: Ashleigh Joy Photography on Unsplash
View and monitor reports for each of your service areas through one visual heatmap, built into the dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks.
Back in 2019 we worked with Bromley Council to introduce a new heatmap feature to FixMyStreet Pro’s arsenal of tools for council staff.
The heatmap converts report data into a visual format that is easy to understand, allowing council staff to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where they are being reported.
Since being rolled out to all Pro customers, the heatmap has become one of the service’s most popular and useful features, which is why we built the same functionality for our new waste service WasteWorks.
Bromley also co-designed WasteWorks with us, and so is one of the first councils to go live with the service and benefit from being able to track and manage more than one service area from a single, central dashboard.
Now, when Bromley staff log in to their FixMyStreet Pro dashboard and select the heatmap overlay, as well as being able to view street and highways reports, they can also see where reports and requests are being submitted through WasteWorks for waste services.
The heatmap looks and works in the same way as before for Bromley. Hotter colours represent higher report volume, cooler colours represent fewer reports, and dropdown filters allow staff to view report data by category, status, timeframe and ward.
By default, the heatmap shows every report made to the council in the last month, so initially the map will look something like this:
But now, without needing to leave the page, Bromley staff can view reports about, say, fly-tips, made in the last 12 months, which have been closed…
…or, green garden waste subscriptions, which have been completed in the last 5 days.
Heatmaps for both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks are available to all UK councils. If you’d like to see how they work, you can request a demo.
Developed for Oxfordshire County Council’s instance of FixMyStreet Pro, useful new map pins show citizens when a fix has already been scheduled by the council, further helping to avoid report duplication and manage citizen expectations.
When a citizen makes a report on FixMyStreet.com or on one of the council branded Pro versions of the website, that report is published publicly with a little pin on the map indicating where the defect is. Among the various benefits of this transparent approach to defect report making is the way in which it helps to reduce duplicate reports; the citizen can see that the council has already been made aware of the issue and therefore doesn’t need to submit a new report.
Wanting to take extra advantage of this feature, Oxfordshire County Council approached us last year with a request to display some brand new pins on their maps to show where highways inspectors have already made note of a defect and have scheduled contractors to carry out a repair, thus eliminating the need for anyone to make a report in the first place.
To collect the information for the new pins, Oxfordshire set up a new standard asset layer feed for FixMyStreet Pro especially for defects that have already been flagged by the Council’s highways inspectors.
Taking data straight out of Oxfordshire’s backend management system, FixMyStreet Pro’s frontend produces a pin on the map to represent those defects, which can be seen to citizens from the ‘All Reports’ page when zoomed in to a certain level over the corresponding map tiles. These pins are shown in blue to differentiate them from those indicating a citizen-made report.
Before a citizen places a pin of their own on the map to begin a report, FixMyStreet Pro will display the blue defect pins to helpfully suggest that this could be a problem that’s already been flagged by the Council.
Upon clicking one of the new pins, the citizen will be shown a pop-up containing up-to-date information on the defect, including when a repair is estimated to be completed.
All of this should help to save the citizen the bother of submitting a report, while for the Council it helps to not just save time and money, but to also instil confidence in residents that defect repairs are all in hand.
SocietyWorks’ services are under continual development and we love taking suggestions for new features from our council partners, like this one from Oxfordshire. If you’d like to find out more about FixMyStreet Pro, or any of our other services, you can schedule a demo here.
Image: Miguel Teirlinck on Unsplash
As you probably know, earlier this month two unitary authorities replaced the two-tier council structure in Northamptonshire – an area where street and highways defect reports are managed via our FixMyStreet Pro service.
Integrated directly into Northamptonshire County Council’s asset management system of choice Yotta Alloy, FixMyStreet Pro, known as Street Doctor in Northamptonshire, acts as the all-important, user friendly front door for citizens who need to report any local problems. This being the case, as well as preparing for some behind the scenes rerouting to ensure that reports would go to the correct place for the two new councils, the pressure was on for the SocietyWorks team to ensure that there would be no interruption to the service for citizens on 1 April when the two councils came into effect.
So how did we do this?
One of the main reasons citizens prefer to use FixMyStreet to report issues to the council is that they don’t need to know which council is responsible for what problem, so our first priority was to understand where FixMyStreet would need to send reports after the split, all based on category and location data provided within reports.
Our MapIt service, which FixMyStreet uses to match councils to the area for which they’re responsible, would have the new authority boundaries in place from 1 April ready to direct reports to the correct council.
The new councils, North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council, were each to absorb responsibility for Northamptonshire’s district councils, which meant writing some code that would work out which council was previously responsible for an issue, and ensuring that those reports continued to go to the correct place until such time as the new councils have designated a new way to receive them.
Next we created two new bodies for North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire, covering their respective district areas and ensuring the report categories were the same across both for consistency. For highways issues, we renamed the existing Northamptonshire County Council body to Northamptonshire Highways.
On the front-end, our design team rebranded Northamptonshire’s instance of FixMyStreet Pro to align with the two new unitary councils. Instead of creating a new website for each council, both councils would be represented on the existing Street Doctor site, making it very easy for citizens to make a report – they wouldn’t need to search for a new place to make a report, nor would they need to know which of the new councils is responsible; we would work all of that out for them.
As before, the website would work seamlessly on any device, giving citizens the ability to make reports wherever suits them best, while helping the new councils to drive channel shift and continue to create savings.
North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council came into being on 1 April 2021. On that date, citizens in Northamptonshire needing to report local problems such as potholes, broken street lights or graffiti were able to do so with no disruption.
The updated version of Northamptonshire’s FixMyStreet Pro went live at midnight on 1 April, providing citizens with a familiar, easy-to-navigate place to make reports to the two new councils.
At the same time, the new boundary areas were set on MapIt, ready to ensure that reports went to the correct council. These boundaries may be updated again as standard after the upcoming local elections should there be any changes.
Got a question about FixMyStreet Pro? Ask away.