Parking sets a high benchmark for digital service transformation in Watford
Watford Borough Council is continuing to capitalise on digital improvements to maximise accessibility and convenience of its services for residents, and the council’s parking team is leading by example with the successful introduction of virtual systems and highly responsive self-serve platforms.
Working in partnership with enforcement and traffic management specialist, Imperial, the Hertfordshire authority is now pursuing a policy of continuous innovation and service development in the delivery of all of its parking services.
“ICT capabilities and opportunities are constantly evolving and it was important for us to establish a direct, close and dynamic relationship with a specialist service provider that could help us fulfill our service transformation objectives,” says Watford’s Parking Services Manager, Justin Bloomfield. “Parking is a very highly regulated, complex and highly emotive service area that poses considerable challenges in terms of service transformation. However, our decision to appoint Imperial is enabling us to not only deliver the Council’s vision to be a customer-focused, digitally-enabled and commercially-minded service provider but also to take full advantage of innovative new technologies.”
Imperial’s appointment was confirmed by the Council two years ago, at the same time as NSL was confirmed as the new enforcement contractor. The decision to award separate contracts was taken to help establish greater clarity, accountability and management control in all areas of enforcement and processing for Justin Bloomfield and his team. And progressive service outcomes and far-reaching benefits for residents are demonstrating clearly the value of such foresight.
The introduction of virtual permits from Imperial for Watford Borough Council’s 17 CPZs has set a high benchmark for the Council’s digital service transformation.
(Photo: Imperial’s Toby Bliss (left), with Watford Borough Council’s Parking Services Manager, Justin Bloomfield.)
“Harnessing Imperial’s digital expertise and service capabilities, has helped us to move forward very quickly indeed,” continues Bloomfield. “And the introduction of virtual permits for the seventeen Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) for residents across the borough has been seamless, very effective and resulted in very positive feedback from our customers.”
The adoption of Imperial’s virtual permit solution has greatly simplified the permit registration, renewal and payment processes for residents and has minimised back office administration for the authority. It has also transformed the effectiveness of on-street enforcement as previous conventional arrangements were failing to address the high levels of non-compliance, persistent offenders and unauthorised parking that were compromising the benefits of CPZ restrictions for residents.
The new self-serve on-line system is intuitive, very easy to use and enables residents and businesses to apply for and instantly receive a permit 24/7. Back office records are also instantaneously updated. Patrolling Civil Enforcement Officers use Samsung smartphones fitted with Imperial’s fully integrated Rialto software, to simply scan all vehicle registrations within a CPZ to confirm whether they have a valid permit for the assigned parking area. And the enforcement of all other restricted and paid parking areas benefits from similar efficiencies.
Watford Borough Council’s parking enforcement activities are predominantly on-street with only a limited number of off-street facilities. In a burgeoning economic area that is also a popular commuting area for the capital, the authority issues around 10,000 permits a year. The majority is issued to local residents, although other permits include staff parking, visitors, car park season tickets and special permits for use by individuals with special requirements such as the caring profession.
“The introduction of the virtual permit solution is just the beginning”, adds Bloomfield. “As an authority that has signed up for the Government’s Local Digital Declaration, innovation and ongoing digital service development was at the heart of our tender for the new ICT enforcement contract. Imperial has an excellent track record for developing new ideas and new service capabilities, and the effectiveness and influence of the Imperial User Group as a catalyst for innovation and ‘smart’ solutions is widely respected within the industry. We have our own ideas and aspirations and are looking forward to sharing these thoughts within such a progressive and inspirational forum.”
Major improvements to Watford High Street and the £180 million extension and redevelopment of the council-owned Charter Place Shopping Centre – including its integration with the refurbished intu Watford Shopping Centre – has put Watford into one of the top 20 UK shopping destinations. The town is also taking a lead in sustainable economic growth and consolidating its position as a primary regional hub with more than £1.5 billion investment being leveraged by the council to create new homes and jobs and to improve services and infrastructure.
“Digital advances and responsive parking services in the borough will continue to evolve to ensure all residents, businesses and visitors in all areas of the borough are able to reap the full benefits of such ambitious capital investment and development programmes,” adds Bloomfield.