Parking is a major issue for residents in urban areas and applying for a resident’s permit for the first time will need some proof of eligibility. This will affect the extent to which the service can be supplied online from end-to-end, and why ‘apply for resident’s parking’ is one of the pilots for Verify, the GDS authentication product. Our survey covers the quality of the experience when looking for information about applying including documentation needed, and the extent to which applications from mobile devices are accommodated.
London borough councils
We last looked at parking permit applications in 2014-15, when the task was about renewal rather than a fist time application. That test covered London boroughs and metropolitan districts with 61% of London boroughs passing the test (equivalent to getting 3 or 4 stars today). In this test, more difficult because it was conducted on a mobile device, 67% scored 3 or 4 stars. Tests for three councils were abandoned because their websites are not purposed for access from mobiles, and their 1 star results will have depressed the 'all council' result for this task.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2016-17 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
Parking is clearly a key priority service for London boroughs and website home pages reflected this. Signposting of the parking area of sites, and within them, the permits section, was generally excellent.
All but three sites were optimised for mobile devices, making for generally good browsing experiences. In a few cases a lengthy site menu including site-wide navigation elements were presented on every page, forcing the user to scroll considerably before main body of the page could be viewed.
Where many (60%) of sites fell down was in failing to make forms mobile-friendly. Sometimes the site user is directed into an external parking external service website that had in no way been designed or adapted for mobile users. In other cases the council’s own corporate forms portal fell short of the mobile friendly interface found throughout the rest of the site.
The survey starts with a Google search ‘ council resident parking permit’ and continues from where Google lands the user from the first relevant looking result.
The best sites ensured that they linked or directed users into the related CPZ (controlled parking zone) pages to access a map of zones or a street look-up to check which zone the applicant’s residence fell into, before sending people to the application form.
Sometimes it was necessary to navigate up to the main parking landing page to find the CPZ information. The simplest way to give users the chance to explore related content found in other sections is through embedded links within the text. These are especially important where mobile site presentation does not display section menus at the top of the page, when it can be difficult to grasp what other related content can be found.
In this respect Wandsworth council gave an excellent experience browsing through this topic with links within the body of the text to everything relevant. This was refreshing to see and made navigating through the information back and forth very easy.
A common flaw in content on this topic was a failure to describe the end-to-end process of applying, receiving and using a permit. We were quite generous in scoring this question, as some of this information was likely to be provided in later stages of the process, but a offering a brief overview before attempting to work through the form is really helpful.
Timescales for processing the application and posting permits were only given in half of the sites that were fully reviewed. This overlooks what is likely to be a key preoccupation for new applicants struggling to park near their home, an consequently a likely source of those ‘avoidable contacts’ all councils are keen to reduce. From a customer perspective, this is a significant failing.
It is also important for parking teams to consider carefully what information applicants need about documents and other details they should have ready before attempting to fill out the online form, as well as instructions on how documents can be presented to the council.
Most sites gave specific details on the exact documents needed, but some were vague, simply stating that ‘proof of residence’ or similar was required.
More than 80% of sites fully tested allowed residents to apply online. A few councils (eg LB Barnet) are now offering electronic permits so residents don’t have to display anything in their car, or wait for a permit to arrive in the post. As this seems to be a new development, there was usually a good explanation of the process and how parking enforcers use the vehicle registration to check it has a valid permit.
Some councils offer temporary permits whilst new residents get their documents together. One even allowed people to print off their temporary permit immediately. One or two councils (e.g. Lewisham) carry out their own online checks to confirm the address a vehicle is registered to instead of requiring users to locate, scan and upload the various proofs.
Where vehicle owners are applying on a mobile device, councils can take advantage of devices’ location services to indicate the relevant CPZ. Westminster was one that did this.
The experience here was very good. I liked the concise explanation of the new system and inclusion of timescales etc. Also I thought the council was customer focused and forward thinking in (presumably) using a government database to check the property to which a vehicle is registered rather than requesting vehicle registration document copies. I almost missed the CPZ maps though as I had arrived on the site within the parking permit pages and there is no link from there to check you live in a CPZ.
Excellent - all of our questions answered in a straightforward manner on the parking permit page. Not as much detail on the exact documents that will be accepted as proofs but a good overview of the process end to end and links through from the permit page to supporting information elsewhere e.g. checking which CPZ you live in.
Richmond upon Thames
Excellent experience all round with a good level of detail in the 'Before you start' section that fully answered all of our questions. I was pleased to see that you weren't forced to register and could make the application without, but the incentive given would encourage you to, as you can be linked to your council tax account and not have to give proof of address.
An excellent experience browsing through this topic with links within the body of the text to everything relevant as I read through it. This was refreshing to see and made navigating through the information back and forth very easy. I also noted that the council charges an additional £20 admin fee for postal and face to face applications and so encourages users to use the cheaper online facility. It's just a shame that the online form was not optimised for mobile users. This is a serious flaw that makes me hesitate to recommend the site.