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Council parking services particularly weak on provision of online information and services for drivers with disabilities

Council parking services could do a great deal better when it comes to provision of online information and services, and do a particularly poor job for drivers with disabilities.

This is a clear message from the latest report from Socitm’s Better Connected programme, which carries out surveys on local authority websites that test the findability and usability of the information and services they provide.
Fewer than half of the 210 sites tested (covering all English and Northern Irish district councils) made it easy to find information on how and where to apply for a disabled person's parking badge, currently held by 2.38 million individuals in England.
While the issuing of blue badges is not a district council function, the Better Connected report says it seems odd that sites refer to blue badges being required for users of parking bays for disabled people without providing links to further information about how to get one.
Districts do manage applications for blue badge holders for on street ‘disabled’ parking bays to be designated outside their property. Here there is a striking difference between councils that provide almost no information and others that provide a clear set of criteria, detail the application process, and provide an online form so that people may self-serve. Just 23% of sites provide an online application form and only 15% a form that is both responsive and interactive, and therefore fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Overall the result of this survey was disappointing, says Better Connected, with only 31% of sites providing a good or very good service, although provision by Basildon, Bromsgrove, Cambridge, Carlisle, Charnwood, Dorset districts, Scarborough, Uttlesford, Warwick and Waverley were recommended as examples for others to follow.
Sites scored highly for this task made good use of easy-to-use map tools to show the location of car parks and links to information about opening hours, charges and existence or not of pay-by-phone facilities (usually provided by third parties).
Reviewers were surprised by how often they were presented with a list of car parks named for local streets or landmarks, with a map associated with each car park – an approach that provides a poor starting point for drivers, especially those who are visitors to an area.
The Better Connected report points out that according to the RAC, and based on council returns to the Department for Communities, English councils made a record £819 million (after deducting costs) from their parking operations in 2016-17, up 10% from 2015-16 and 40% from 2012-13. It comments that some of this surplus might usefully be deployed to improve parking pages on council websites.
Results of the parking survey for the 210 English and Northern Ireland district councils are now available. Individual councils can find their results from the council index page on the Better Connected website
The ‘all council’ report can also be found on the Better Connected website
The parking survey report follows last week’s report on social care (English councils with responsibilities for adult social care) library services (Scottish and Welsh councils). Three reports on different aspects of rubbish and recycling covering all council types will be published later in February.
Notes for editors
Better Connected is owned and was originally developed by Socitm. Since May 2015 it has been run in partnership with Boilerhouse Communications
Anyone can access ‘all-council’ reports and individual council headline results from Better Connected surveys. Visit the Better Connected website for further details.
Full details of individual council reviews are available to Socitm corporate member councils and Better Connected + subscribers only.