Bromley and Bexley first councils to offer drivers Response Master Self-Serve

Parking Review: 29 September 2015

An online interactive guidance facility to help motorists with their parking appeals has gone live in two south London boroughs. The shared Bromley and Bexley Parking Service is ‘beta-testing’ the system, which has been developed by Barbour Logic.

A London local authority parking partnership has helped a South Yorkshire council clear a build up of drivers’ correspondence. Bromley and Bexley’s Shared Parking Service assisted Sheffield City Council with a short-term backlog of challenges and representations.

Ben Stephens, head of Bromley and Bexley Shared Parking Service, said: “Having combined the work of two services previously to form a shared service, we were keen to work with colleagues within local government again, as well as the private sector, and were confident that this project would be a success.”

Sheffield made the initial approach to the London service by email. Stephens said: “With no previous connection between the boroughs, a working arrangement was swiftly agreed within just a few days of the first point of contact following an email via the BPA web portal.”

The working arrangement was implemented in a short time frame due to what Stephens calls a series of “coincidental factors”.

“Sharing the same IT software provided by Imperial Civil Enforcement Services (ICES) and the Response Master interface provided by Barbour Logic was a coincidental factor that helped ensure the success of the project within a very short time frame. Both service providers were very helpful in facilitating the required changes,” said Stephens.

Additionally, the councils’ lawyers agreed that the 1972 Local Government Act allowed one authority to work on behalf of another, meaning there were no legal barriers. “Whilst adapting to new demands resulting from the Deregulation Bill, the shared service was able to accommodate the additional Sheffield work as well as continuing to balance the needs of their own service,” he said.

Negotiations regarding the charge for officer time were based on factors such as the amount of correspondence and set-up costs. “With the technical, legal, capacity and cost issues resolved within a few more days, it was a case of looking at the actual work.”

Stephens worked closely with Sheffield’s interim parking services manager John David. Stephens said: “After a short period of knowledge sharing, policy comparisons and training, the team completed responses to a total of 1,600 challenges and representations over a four-week period, with the emphasis on bus lane contraventions. The team of staff involved are experienced in notice processing and have the appropriate NVQ qualifications.”

Ben Stephens and John David both believe that it would be quick and easy to arrange similar projects in the future. “From time to time, every council experiences occasional and unique problems, from staffing to technical or capacity issues,” said Stephens. “It should be remembered that there is a huge Local Government resource of parking staff, which utilise similar policies and practices using a limited range of software. With this in mind, consideration should be given to such staff and councils assisting each other on occasion, or to developing alternative service delivery models.”
ped by Barbour Logic.

Response Master Self Serve enables motorists appealing against a penalty charge notice (PCN) to know in advance the likely outcome of their appeal with a full explanation. Where appropriate, it also explains the type of evidence required to consider an appeal further.

Ben Stephens, head of parking services, said: “We have always encouraged motorists who feel hard done by to appeal. This innovative new system is designed and intended to assist those motorists contemplating doing so arrive at their decision in a more fully informed manner.”

Jason Barbour, managing director of Barbour Logic, added: “The interactive system learns from users, understands parking and knows the councils’ policies. Which means motorists can get on-the-spot answers and advice, saving them time and stress. This is the most significant change yet in the way councils deal with PCN appeals and it demonstrates how the Parking Service for Bromley and Bexley is open and transparent.”

The London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley merged their parking service sections to form a shared service on 1 April 2013. All PCN processing and operational management for both boroughs is undertaken at the Bromley office.

The councils receive approximately 23,000 and 12,000 appeals a year, respectively. Motorists have been able to appeal online against penalties issued in these boroughs for a number of years.