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Image by Alex Liivet - a cobbled Macclesfield hill

FixMyStreet for Cheshire East

Residents of Nantwich, Crewe, Wilmslow, Macclesfield, and every other part of Cheshire East will benefit from the council’s decision to implement FixMyStreet Pro as their official report-making system for highways issues.

FixMyStreet’s interface should come as a step improvement for both citizens and council staff, making the reporting process much simpler for all. 

FixMyStreet Pro will be integrating with the council’s existing Confirm CRM. Confirm is a popular choice for UK councils and we’ve dealt with it a lot, so the hook-up was very straightforward.

Customer service staff will also continue taking reports over the phone. They’ll input details into the system for inspectors to pick up — and these reports will also be shown on the council’s website (and fixmystreet.com) so the public can see what’s in progress and doesn’t need re-reporting.

A further benefit is that because FixMyStreet can define the information required from the report-maker (precise location, category, etc), the customer services team won’t need to review it as they had been doing previously.

So there are efficiency wins all round for Cheshire East. We welcome them to the growing number of councils who’ve opted for FixMyStreet Pro.

Image: Alex Liivet (CC by/2.0)

Image by Adeolu Eletu - a man looking at charts on a tablet

Councils are more in need of savings than ever. FixMyStreet Pro can help.

Austerity left many councils struggling, with some even on the verge of bankruptcy. And then came the pandemic, a new and unexpected drain on resources from many different directions.

There are public information campaigns to run, pavements to widen, vulnerable people to look after, foodbanks to support — and a considerable number of citizens without income to feed into the tax system.

Against this background, splashing out for a new piece of software may be the last thing on your mind. But counterintuitive though it may be, this is one purchase that will save on costs.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. FixMyStreet is a proven catalyst to channel shift. Just take a look at Buckinghamshire Council’s experience, where the price of each report dropped from an average of £7.81 to just 9p — a massive 98.69% saving. We’ve said in the past that FixMyStreet Pro brings savings from day one — and we still stand by that.
  2. We reduce duplicate reports. Authorities tell us that responding to and dealing with reports of issues that have already been logged is a substantial expense — and all for nothing. That’s why we’ve introduced a number of features on FixMyStreet that not only dissuade duplicate reports, but allow the citizen to be kept updated as the issue is resolved.
  3. You can ditch legacy software FixMyStreet Pro’s back end offering has gone from strength to strength recently — and it now handles a lot of tasks that you may be paying a variety of other outdated systems to do. Good news: you can sweep them all away and just pay FixMyStreet pro’s very reasonable subscription cost instead.
  4. We don’t do lengthy tie-ins FixMyStreet Pro subscriptions are renewed annually, and there’s no contractual tie-in binding you to years of fees. Just keep us for as long as we’re useful.
  5. Citizens become your eyes and ears With such an easy interface, FixMyStreet Pro is a simple way for citizens to make reports. So even if you don’t have the budget for regular inspections, you’ll still be kept informed when issues arise.

If you’d like to ask more about FixMyStreet Pro and its potential to save authorities money, do join us for a webinar.You can book a slot here or drop us a line if you don’t see a date that suits you.

Image: Adeolu Eletu

Leeds in lockdown - image by Dan Burton

Reflecting the covid-19 needs of authorities and citizens on FixMyStreet Pro

Have you considered using FixMyStreet Pro as part of an application to the Emergency Active Travel Fund? The service can easily be adapted to allow citizens make requests for cycle paths and street widening, for example, or to report areas where social distancing is difficult and intervention is needed.

This way, your covid action plan becomes needs led, instigated by the community without the need for expensive surveys or reports.

The pandemic has brought many changes to the way we move around our towns and cities, and authorities are having to adapt to them quickly. 

FixMyStreet Pro offers one quick and easy way to reflect the new requirements we have of our environments: the addition of new report categories.

Some authorities are already taking advantage of this and have added categories that enable citizens to request wider pavements or cycle paths, or note where social distancing signage might be useful.

You can also head off the type of report that is better made elsewhere: for example, if a citizen wishes to report a business for poor practice — a report that clearly shouldn’t be public on your website — they can be routed towards the correct channel to do so, perhaps a phone number or a private contact form.

As a FixMyStreet Pro client, you can add, remove, or rename categories as needed; you can also nest subcategories, or place a subcategory under more than one main category to help users find it.

If you’d like to know more about categories, or any other feature, do join us for a webinar, so we can take you through FixMyStreet Pro’s main features and answer any questions you may have. You can book a slot here or drop us a line if you don’t see a date that suits you.

Image: Dan Burton

A number 3 hanging from a wire

What you’ll notice on FixMyStreet 3.0

We recently released version 3.0 of the open source software which FixMyStreet runs on.

This brings some substantial improvements to the code. The update is available to anyone running a site on the FixMyStreet platform, which includes our own fixmystreet.com; the installations we provide for councils and authorities; and the FixMyStreet instances run by others, in places from Australia to Uruguay.

If you run a site on the FixMyStreet platform yourself, or are just interested in the technical details, you can read the release notes here.

Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the new front-end features you might notice if you’re a user of FixMyStreet.

Run the site as an app

FixMyStreet can now be added to phones (and desktops for that matter) as a ‘progressive app’. Here’s what to look for when you visit fixmystreet.com:

On Chrome for Android:

Installing FixMyStreet on Chrome on Android

Access from the bar at the bottom of the screen.

On iOS:

 

Share button on iOs

Click the share icon at the foot of the screen.

Add to homescreen

Then select ‘add to home screen’.

On Firefox for Android:

Installing FixMyStreet on Firefox for Android

Look for the pop up notification or tap the home icon with a plus sign in it in the URL bar.

Any of these methods will install a version of FixMyStreet that will behave like an app, placing an icon on your desktop, browser start page or home screen.

This way there is no need to download or update from the app store, and changes to the main website (which are invariably released sooner than on the app) will be immediately available to you.

Cobrands (for example the councils that use FixMyStreet as part of their own websites, and people running FixMyStreet in their own countries) can provide their own logo and colourscheme as well.

Mobile browser improvements

Whether you install the progressive web app or just visit fixmystreet.com on your mobile browser, you may notice some nice new features.

  • If you use the geolocation function (‘use my location’), your position will be displayed on the map:Marker showing user's location on FixMyStreet when viewed on a mobile browser
  • When viewing an area, you can access the filters to narrow the reports displayed down by their status (fixed/open etc) and category:Filter options on FixMyStreet's mobile browser interface
  • If you’re about to report something that looks like a duplicate, you’ll not only be shown the report/s that have already been made, but you’ll also see a small inline map without having to scroll back to the main map to check where they are.
  • The site recognises that when you’re on a mobile, the message about uploading a photo shouldn’t invite you to ‘drag and drop’, but rather to either take a new one or select a photo from your phone.Prompt to add a photo on FMS app
  • If you’ve placed the pin incorrectly, the ‘try again’ process is clearer.

Sharing reports

If a picture paints a thousand words, then your Twitter character count just went stratospheric. Now, when you share a report on places like Twitter or Facebook, if there’s a photo included in the report, that will also be pulled through.

Previously, the ‘open graph image’ that was shown by default was the same for every report — which could get a bit boring in aggregate, and certainly missed some of the impact that people might want to share when they’re posting about their own, or others’ reports.

Tweet showing a picture pulled through from a FixMyStreet report

Social media isn’t the only place that FixMyStreet reports can be piped to, though — the site also has several RSS capabilities that have been baked in since its early days.

For those not totally up to speed with RSS and what it can do, we’re now no longer displaying them as raw XML but as a nice simple web page that explains its purpose.

To see this in action, click ‘Local Alerts’ in the top menu of any page. Here’s a before and after:

FixMyStreet RSS feeds before and after a design refresh

What benefits one, benefits all

Much of this work is thanks to NDI, the National Democratic Institute.

NDI offer the FixMyStreet codebase as one of their DemTools, installing it in countries around the world as an innovation which empowers citizens to keep their neighbourhoods clean and safe.

Thanks to this partnership, NDI funded the addition of new features which they had identified as desirable — and which, thanks to the open codebase, will benefit users of every FixMyStreet site worldwide.

There are some other significant additions in this release, including integration, back end and security improvements, all of which will be of most interest to developers and site admins — so if you’d like to see them, head over to the full write up on the FixMyStreet platform blog.

Image: Max Fuchs

feet on each side of a yellow line in the road

FixMyStreet Pro: 2019 in review

What a year it’s been for FixMyStreet Pro, now the official street reporting system for 21 authorities across the country.

Growth…

During 2019 we’ve welcomed Bexley, Cheshire East, Hackney, Northamptonshire, Hounslow Highways, Westminster, Island Roads (Isle of Wight), Peterborough, and now Transport for London to the list of Pro clients.

In all, that adds up to 6.5 million residents who can now report problems such as potholes, faulty street lights or vandalism, either on FixMyStreet.com or on their councils’ own websites.

And if you consider that TfL covers all of Greater London, a further 7.5 million residents and countless commuters, tourists and visitors to the city are also covered for reporting on overground and underground stations, red routes, bus stops, etc.

In all cases, reports pass directly into the authorities’ internal systems, making for swift resolution and the ability to keep the report-maker informed of progress at every step.

…and improvement

It hasn’t been all about expansion, though. This year, we’ve also been adding further features for councils to the FixMyStreet Pro offering. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that improvements for councils always translate into improvements for residents too, either in terms of quicker report processing, better status updates, or public money saved — and often all three.

Here’s a rundown of the new features we’ve introduced this year:

Getting out and about

We attended Highways UK in Brum and the LGA conference in Bournemouth — it was good to meet so many of our clients and those considering whether FixMyStreet Pro might be a good fit for their needs.

And we were delighted to meet up with residents in Westminster and let them put the FixMyStreet to test while we watched and learned.

Residents testing FixMyStreet prototypes

 

Looking forward to 2020

We’ve already been carrying out some research with client authorities, and we’ll be continuing this work into the new year. We also have some development planned.

  • Conducting user testing to see how people use the input forms, what might be confusing and how this can be addressed…
  • …and further user testing to observe how people use FixMyStreet on mobile devices.
  • We’ll be talking to District Councils to see how their needs differ from other authorities, and how we can meet those needs.
  • Meanwhile we’ll be giving the FixMyStreet app a much-needed update.
  • We’ll make it easier for staff to add the email address of someone who requests updates on an existing report.
  • And lots more!

We’re really looking forward to getting our teeth into these features and then rolling them out to our client councils in 2020.

The FixmyStreet Pro team


Image: Nadine Shaabana

Peterborough

Spreadsheets begone! FixMyStreet Pro for Peterborough

We know that in many cases, when we install FixMyStreet Pro for a new council, we’re bringing not only a smooth reporting interface for residents, but also a better day-to-day experience for staff. In the case of Peterborough City Council, that was very much the case.

A very manual process

Peterborough had been using a stopgap solution for street reports, after the service they had been using ceased to exist. So, for some time, residents had been asked to make their reports through basic online forms. Not too onerous, but clunky enough.

The real pain point was mostly experienced, however, by council personnel. Customer services staff had the job of manually transferring the details from a spreadsheet and into the council’s Confirm CRM, where highways inspectors could pick up the reports and act upon them.

Then, once an issue had been resolved, inspectors manually updated another spreadsheet to let the customer service centre know of the status change, in case the report-maker called for an update.

There was no automated means by which a user could be updated with progress on reports, or told when it had been fixed.

So in short, FixMyStreet Pro will be making life easier all round, for staff and for residents. Plus the easier internal workflow should save a substantial amount of time and money, while keeping citizens engaged and informed every step of the way.

Improved efficiency

Councillor Farooq Mohammed said, “The introduction of FixMyStreet has brought in significant improvements to the services PCC provide to its residents. FixMyStreet not only brings efficiencies to various service departments, it is very user friendly and easy to use for our residents. This improves the response time to our residents.”

And Peterborough’s ICT Project Manager Jason Dalby added, “mySociety fully understood the challenges we face as a local authority and very quickly turned our requirements into an automated fault reporting system with integration into our Highways back office Confirm system, improving our efficiency by eliminating manual data entry.

“We are proud to be partners with mySociety and continue to work closely with them to improve FixMyStreet for our mutual benefit”.

We’ll continue working with the council over the next few months on their other service areas too, so watch this space.

If you’re a council and there’s potential for efficiencies in your reporting system (whether large or small), do get in touch.

Image: Dun.can (CC by/2.0)

Winkle_Street,_Calbourne,_Isle_of_Wight,_UK

Making things right on the Isle of Wight

FixMyStreet Pro has crossed the Solent, with Isle of Wight the latest council to install it as their official report-making interface.

Street issues on England’s largest island are handled by the company Island Roads, who keep things in order for residents and tourist alike, with responsibility for highways maintenance; road, pavement and cycleway improvements; street lights, street cleansing, winter gritting, bridges, drainage, street furniture and car parks.

As with all FixMyStreet Pro integrations, islanders can take their pick between making reports through the Island Roads website or on FixMyStreet.com; either way the issue will display on both sites, and drop directly into the case management system, Confirm.

What was different about this installation?

Island Roads requested a feature that we hadn’t previously developed for any of our other council clients, but which we suspect that some may be interested in now they know it’s available.

When a report is submitted, it drops into a special triage area where operatives can analyse it in more detail, ensure that it is categorised correctly, and check that it contains all the relevant information that the inspectors need in order to locate the fault and fix it.

Island Roads have also made use of another new piece of functionality: emergency categories.

If a user indicates the report might require immediate attention — say, in the case of a fallen tree on the road or a hazardous pothole — the form submission is disabled.

Instead, the user will see a message, telling them to call Island Roads directly:

Form changes if the user selects that the problem is urgent

The aim is that this simple safeguard will have a hand in preventing accidents.

Alex Brown, Systems Technician at Island Roads, said: “The focus of this development has been to enable the public to report their highway related issues to us easily, with the necessary information for us to respond appropriately and deal with the issues effectively. The project team at mySociety were excellent to work with and developed a solution which met our specific requirements.”

Image: Mypix [CC BY-SA 4.0]

FixMyStreet Pro for Westminster

London’s best known and most-visited neighbourhood is now covered by FixMyStreet Pro. If a user is living, working or sightseeing in the borough of Westminster, their reports will drop directly into the council’s own MSDynamics365 system. 

In this first phase, the following categories are covered, with potholes, street signs and lights to follow soon:

  • Bins
  • Drains
  • Fly tipping
  • Graffiti
  • Flyposting
  • Street cleaning
  • Vehicles

Users can make a report either via fixmystreet.com or on the Westminster website, and in either case they’ll go directly into the council systems to be dealt with. There’s also the option to use the council’s My Westminster portal.

Why Westminster chose Pro

The council was satisfied with its internal systems for report handling, but both senior staff and councillors agreed that they wanted to offer something more user-friendly for their website visitors. 

mySociety’s knowledge and experience helped us deliver this project smoothly to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our City Management teams

FixMyStreet Pro is the ideal solution in this situation: we’ve worked for years on making the interface resolutely simple for all to use, and it can connect seamlessly with any existing internal set-up.

Councillor Paul Swaddle, Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Digital, Westminster City Council, says: “mySociety have been professional, from the point of contracting all the way through to deployment of our new ‘Report it’ application.

“Their team worked in partnership with council staff to integrate FixMyStreet into our systems including CRM against challenging timescales. They also supported us in delivering several successful resident engagement sessions, and quickly reflecting user feedback in the WCC branded version of the site.

“mySociety’s knowledge and experience helped us deliver this project smoothly to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our City Management teams.”

Especially for Westminster

As with all FixMyStreet Pro installs, this one has its own distinct features. It’s been a very collaborative project with the council, in which they’ve provided a specialised adapter that allows FixMyStreet to connect with their CRM, and we managed the configuration and a single sign-in functionality.

This involved integration with the council’s own My Westminster log-in, a pre-existing service where users can keep track of their reports, planning applications and so on. 

As well as the normal interfaces, you can now make a report through a My Westminster account, and this means that only a single log-in is required: ideal for the local resident who may be completing several community-based tasks in short order. We’ll be writing more about this in a forthcoming post.

Talking to the back end

Westminster use Microsoft Dynamics 365 for their CRM, so FixMyStreet Pro needed to be able to pass reports into it and retrieve status updates back from it, all with no interruption to users or staff. This was achieved with an adapter, specially created by Westminster’s IT department, and the Open311 protocol which allows for a standard report output.

Report with no name

This installation also features something we haven’t implemented before: anonymous reporting. For a really frictionless experience, users can log an issue without providing contact details or even a name. Of course, if this option is chosen, they won’t get any updates to the report’s status, but it certainly makes things quick and easy.

Testing with the people that matter

Westminster have been a shining example of best practice when it comes to implementing a new service. They did something that ideally all authorities would do when introducing a new online system, inviting potential users in to have a go, and feed back their thoughts.

 

 

Once they had had a chance to enjoy that amazing view from the council offices, local residents tried out the report making interface. mySociety designer Martin was there to take notes, and users’ feedback was added directly into our development roadmap.

We hope that they, and all residents of Westminster, will be happy with their new service.

If you would like to explore the installation  of FixMyStreet Pro for your own council, please do drop us a line and we’ll be happy to talk.

Top image: Dean Molyneaux (CC by-sa 2.0)

Hounslow Central Underground station, Greater London © Copyright Nigel Thompson and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

Speedy integration for Hounslow

Hounslow is the latest borough to adopt FixMyStreet Pro, adding to the ever-growing share of Greater London councils who have chosen the service as their main street reporting interface.

As with other Pro integrations, citizens can now make reports via the Hounslow website or on FixMyStreet.com; either way they’ll display on both sites, and will drop directly into the council’s case management system — in this case, Confirm.

It’s part of a dual contract with contractors Ringway that operates the highways contract on behalf of the London Borough of Hounslow: watch this space for the other council implementation going live soon on the Isle of Wight.

In fact, this installation has involved a seamless transfer which minimised the impact on council staff; everything was handled through Ringway, including user testing via their network of volunteer ‘Lay Assessors’.

Thanks to a lot of previous experience with Confirm, it’s all proven very straightforward from our point of view. The whole system was up and running in just two weeks, something of a record for FixMyStreet Pro implementation — and a great illustration of just how quickly councils can get going and start to see real change in their customer interface with FixMyStreet Pro if everything is in place.

Rob Gillespie, Ringway’s Regional Director, agrees: “I have been impressed with the level of engagement and simplicity of this change. The team behind FixMyStreet has supported our team to develop a service that I believe will be a real game-changer for the industry. Our aim was to improve the accessibility of our highway services, and improve the connectivity between customers and our operational teams. This partnership has really delivered on these expectations.”

 

Image: Nigel Thompson (CC by-sa/2.0)

Measuring the savings brought by FixMyStreet Pro

Buckinghamshire County Council have revealed the cost savings brought to them by FixMyStreet Pro.

The authority switched over to FixMyStreet Pro as their official fault reporting system in April 2018. They’re now able to assess a year’s worth of data and compare it to the year previous. The findings are gratifying, to say the least — and set out a real case for councils who are considering opting for the service themselves.

Saving staff time and resources

The council reports that they’ve seen a 13% decrease in calls and a 40% reduction in emails about street faults since FixMyStreet Pro was introduced.

In case you’re wondering how that translates into monetary savings, well, on average they reckon that a single call costs £5.88 in staff time, while a report made by email, with its potential for back and forth communication to pin down the precise details, chalks up £7.81.

In comparison, because FixMyStreet Pro places reports directly into the system, and little staff time is required to administer them, the perceived cost is just 9p per report.

Additionally, Buckinghamshire has seen a 29% drop in calls where residents are chasing progress: report makers no longer need to get on the phone to check whether their issue is being seen to, because updates are pushed directly back to them as the report progresses through the system.

And there’s been a 59% decrease in unnecessary clarification, that is, when the council need to go back to the report-maker to check the exact location or nature of an issue. FixMyStreet can be set up to the council’s exact specifications to ensure that the user is prompted to provide all the information they’ll need, which accounts for this impressive drop.

Avoiding unnecessary reports

It can be a frustrating waste of time and resources when a council receives reports about issues which are not their responsibility: with the UK’s two tier system, it’s almost inevitable that citizens get confused about which authority deals with which category of street fault — and on top of that, there are the reports that are dealt with by other bodies such as TfL or Highways England.

FixMyStreet has always done a good job of routing reports to the right council, though, and the improvements we’ve made to the service over the last few years mean we can also make sure the relevant reports go through to TfL and Highways England too. Bucks say that since introducing FixMyStreet Pro, they’ve seen a 19% decrease in misrouted reports that have to be forwarded elsewhere.

Finally, they can see a 30% decrease in street light reports. Since Bucks are one of the councils who display all their streetlights on FixMyStreet it’s now very easy for a resident to check online whether an issue has already been reported for any specific lamp post. If it has, they can also see its progress towards resolution — so there’s no need for them to open a new report.

These figures illustrate very clearly what is meant by channel shift: real, tangible results that save money for councils, and thus ultimately, for residents too. It’s great to have this confirmation that FixMyStreet Pro brings results — and we’re still in a continual process of development in consultation with councils, to keep making more improvements wherever we can.

Image: Peter O’Connor (CC by-sa/2.0)

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FixMyStreet Pro is the street & environment reporting service that integrates with any council system.

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