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Automatically triage reports to parish and town councils with FixMyStreet Pro

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

Map showing all the town and parish councils in England and Wales

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.

New functionality for FixMyStreet Pro

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.

Case study: Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire’s town and parish councils

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. 

Aylesbury Town Council’s own section of Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro service

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. 

Wider benefits to councils

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.

Updating report statuses via email

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.

Private text updates

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.

Recategorising reports

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 sprint notes for 2 - 15 February 2021

Sprint notes: 2 – 15 February 2021

Days are getting longer, nights are getting shorter and the SocietyWorks sprints are getting busier! Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to recently.

Working on waste…

If you’ve been following our sprint notes closely, you’ll know that we’ve commenced phase 2 of developing Bromley Council’s new waste service. This sprint we delved a bit deeper into the different APIs we’ll be using, and drafted a technical specification that we shared with Bromley and the third parties involved to get their feedback. We do this because, as part of our processes, we like to make sure we prepare fully, rather than jumping straight into code. This makes for a smoother roll-out, and is also an opportunity for the our customers and any relevant parties to raise any potential issues that may need to be addressed. 

We also continued our work on Peterborough City Council’s new waste service, which involves an intelligent integration with Bartec. It’s coming along nicely and we’ll have more to update you on in the near future.

…and on FixMyStreet Pro, of course

On the FixMyStreet Pro side of things, we worked on several smaller work orders this sprint, including projects for London Borough of Bexley and Bath & North East Somerset Council.

We also looked at how we can roll-out the functionality to send an email when a user is subscribed to a report by council staff on a wider scale – this is something we’ve already built with Oxfordshire County Council, but we see real value in it, so we would like to offer it to all of our council partners. Let us know if this interests you.

Plus, we caught up with our friends at Buckinghamshire Council about how they’ve been getting on with FixMyStreet Pro, which they first switched to back in 2018. We were thrilled to learn that, as the service has improved the user experience for citizens when making a report online, calls to the Council have decreased by 49%, saving Buckinghamshire more than £32,000 per year. Not bad, eh? If you’d like to learn more, we wrote a blog post here.

Giving ourselves more credit

As a team, we’re all really proud of what we do and why we do it, and yet very rarely do we shout about it. Now that our new Marketing & PR Manager Sally is here, we’re going to change this. To that end, we’ve been busy preparing submissions for entering a few awards in the areas of system integration and digital transformation – two things that we live and breathe here at SocietyWorks. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and watch this space!

Growing the team

Sally’s not going to be the new person for very much longer; this sprint saw us conducting interviews for a new Project Manager role. We’re all very excited about this new addition to the team, and we’ll be sure to introduce you as soon as they get started!

Image: Max Conrad on Unsplash

How FixMyStreet Pro is continuing to improve the user experience for Buckinghamshire Council

The SocietyWorks team has always been very confident in FixMyStreet Pro’s ability to create real, positive change for councils. Better user experience, more intelligent use of data, easier case management for council staff and dramatic savings – and that’s just to name a few.

But of course, the proof is always in the pudding. So we were very pleased to hear recently that, since making the switch to FixMyStreet Pro, Buckinghamshire Council has seen a significant improvement to their customer user journey when it comes to online reporting of highways defects. As a result of this, the Council has been able to create over £32,000 in savings per year.

The story so far

Buckinghamshire Council chose to make the switch to FixMyStreet Pro back in 2018 as a way to improve their street and highways fault reporting customer experience. While residents still have a choice of channels through which they can make highways reports, the Council wanted to be able to offer the most intuitive digital process possible for reports that residents want and are able to make online.

Calls to Buckinghamshire Council’s Customer Service Centre about highways defects have decreased by 49%, which equates to over £32,000 in savings per year

It didn’t take long for FixMyStreet Pro to start delivering against Buckinghamshire’s desired outcomes. Since launching the service, calls to the council about highways defects have decreased by 49% – a clear sign that the online user experience has improved. In fact, for street light defects in particular, calls have decreased by 58%, more than likely helped by the Council’s intelligent use of FixMyStreet Pro’s asset layers, which can display ID numbers for street lights (as well as a number of other assets) to help the user make an accurate selection on the map and reduce duplicate reporting.

The benefits of this improved user experience stretch beyond just the user; for the Council itself the cost per highways report has dropped by up to 98.69%, taking an average report cost down from £7.81 to just 9p. According to Buckinghamshire Council, this equates to over £32,000 in savings per year. So it’s a win for the user and for the Council – and that’s what we love to hear.

What’s next for Buckinghamshire Council and FixMyStreet Pro?

We’re so delighted that FixMyStreet Pro has had such an impact on Buckinghamshire Council already, but we’re not stopping there when it comes to improving things even further.

In light of how successfully FixMyStreet Pro has improved the user experience when it comes to reporting street faults, we’ve been looking into how we could do the same for the process of making claims, too. Buckinghamshire residents can already make claims online to the Council about highways defects, but compared to the defect reporting process, the making a claim process could be much more user-friendly for both residents and council staff. Currently, residents need to provide lots of information up-front, even before it has been established that the claim can be upheld, while staff have to copy information over from the claims form into the Council’s backend management system Confirm, which includes downloading and re-uploading attachments.

After running some service discovery sessions on this, we’ve already made some progress here by improving the connection between Buckinghamshire’s existing claims form and Confirm to drive efficiencies for officers. The next step would be to expand our integration with Confirm and allow users to be able to file an incident report within FixMyStreet itself, as well as reporting the highways defect that caused the incident.

As always, we’ll let you know how the development on this project goes, and hopefully we’ll have some more positive results to share with you in the future!

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If you’d like to find out more about FixMyStreet Pro and have an informal discussion about how the service could work for you, book a short demo here.

Image: Samantha Borges on Unsplash

Reporting by numbers with FixMyStreet Pro

If you’re reporting an issue on Buckinghamshire Council’s FixMyStreet installation, you might have seen yellow dots appearing on the map. These represent items such as streetlights, bins or drains, and we blogged about it when we first added the feature.

Streetlights plotted on FixMyStreet

When it comes to assets like streetlights, it can save the council considerable time and effort if your report tells them precisely which light needs fixing: it’s far quicker to find an identified light than it is to follow well-meaning but perhaps vague descriptions like ‘opposite the school’!

But even when the assets are marked on a map, it’s not always easy for a user to identify exactly which one they want to report, especially if they’ve gone home to make the report and they’re no longer standing right in front of it.

After the system had been in place for a few weeks, the team at Buckinghamshire told us that users often weren’t pinpointing quite the right streetlight. So we thought a bit more about what could be done to encourage more accurate reports.

As you might have noticed, streetlights are usually branded with an ID number, like this:

Buckinghamshire, as you’d expect, holds these ID numbers as data, which means that we were able to add it to FixMyStreet. Now when you click on one of the dots, you’ll see the number displayed, like this: An identified streetlight on FixMyStreet

The same functionality works for signs, Belisha beacons, bollards and traffic signals, as well as streetlights. Each of them has their own unique identifier.

So, if you’re in Bucks and you want to make a report about any of these things, note down the ID number and compare it when you click on the asset. This means the correct information is sent through the first time — which, in turn, makes for a quicker fix. Win/win!

This type of functionality is available to any council using FixMyStreet Pro: just explore this website to find out more.

Header image: Luca Florio

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