Case Study: Plymouth City Council

by | Apr 29, 2021 | Case Study

By working as one big team, Plymouth City Council and Imperial’s Business Process Unit (BPU) have developed a trusting relationship when it comes to managing all aspects of PCN processing.

We know authorities can struggle when it comes to processing PCNs. Cases are often time sensitive due to legislative deadlines, and backlogs may be stressful and costly. But of course many councils simply don’t have the budget to recruit for this purpose alone.

For Plymouth City Council processing PCNs was highly time consuming and prevented staff from focusing on other essential tasks. They therefore turned to Imperial’s Business Processing Unit (BPU) for assistance.

The BPU won a contract to manage Plymouth’s PCN processing, including all call handling and managing of online payments. As part of this process, the BPU effectively took on the council’s identity, answering all queries in accordance with their own policies, procedures and ethos.

Through some 16 years of collaboration, Plymouth’s staff have reaped the benefits of this pressure being completely taken off their shoulders, enabling them to carry out more important tasks and providing managers with complete assurance that all legislation will be met.

Plymouth were also keen to have a good balance between insourced and outsourced services, as well maintaining control over key decisions, and this was previously underpinned by recognition of award nominations with Imperial.


Working as One

Mike Atherton, Group Manager for Parking at Plymouth City Council said: “We have always been really happy with how Imperial have handed our PCN processing. We have built up a trust that goes beyond the contractual relationship – we know they will always handle any situation effectively and our customers feel like they were talking to us directly. We are effectively one voice.”

“Aside from the black and whites of our contract, the thing that stands out for me is how collaborative our partnership feels. We really do feel like we work in an extended team; it is not like a usual supplier relationship where it’s us and them. This is much more fluid.

“We have conversations about how we can tweak different things to make them specific to us, and we have a say in what developments we would like to see in the future.”


Utilising a Suite of Services

One of the advantages of the BPU is that the team utilises all of Imperial’s technology solutions when dealing with all aspects of PCN processing. This means that authorities benefit from the full suite of enforcement technology without actually having to buy it.

Plymouth Parking Operations Manager Zoe Anning said: “There are so many different parts to PCN processing, and each one is specialist, but with the BPU we benefit from using the correct technology and expertise of the team in every stage of the process.

“We could never process PCNs as quickly on our own, as we would need to employ individual experts to handle each stage of the process which would be very expensive, and we wouldn’t even have enough work for them. Because all the experts and technology we need sits within the BPU team, we can use them as much or as little as necessary.”

Plymouth Civic Centre

Photo credit: Pete Chapman. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Managing Peaks

All authorities naturally experience high and low levels of demand when it comes to PCN processing, and the BPU services can be altered accordingly.

Zoe explained: “When changes come into play, such as bus lane enforcement, new cameras tend to mean more PCNs must be processed within the legislative time frame.

“During this time we know we can rely on the BPU to keep on top of any peak in demand as they have the resources available to increase or decrease services as and when we need – something which would be very hard for us to do internally.”

As the Plymouth example shows, managing PCN peak times throughout the year is a common challenge. And in some scenarios, councils may only wish to receive support from the BPU during these busy periods, sometimes for as little as a few days at a time. This may be required while a team member is on annual leave, or perhaps while staff are involved with internal training – and these short-term requirements can be managed just as effectively.


Photo credit: Stuart Wilding. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Minimising the Effects of Covid-19

Throughout the pandemic, many authorities will have seen a backlog build up due to a combination of staff absences and now rising numbers of cases as people begin to travel again. The BPU is fully equipped to manage these backlogs for however long it takes to ensure the work is done.

Plymouth of course already had peace of mind that when responses were needed – often at short notice – or any changes needed to be made, their PCN processing needs were taken care of through the BPU, so there was little impact on their workforce.

Zoe said: “We were very fortunate that the pandemic had a minimal effect on our team. Working from home was made easy due to the BPU being web-based and we were able to contact the team from anywhere.

“The BPU acted like a safety blanket for us, as we knew our staff wouldn’t need to worry about changing demands and potential backlogs, and hence increased workload and cashflow issues.

“I would say being part of the BPU gives you a sense of safety in numbers through uncertain times, whether it be through the pandemic or when new legislation is put into place. We know the BPU team have access to all the experts and resources to ensure our processing is being done correctly.”

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