Adam Challenges Kent County Council to FixMyStreet
Originally published by Folkestone and Hythe Liberal Democrats
Folkestone Lib Dem Campaigner Adam Rowledge has challenged Kent County Council's decision to stop accepting reports of road problems through popular problem reporting tool FixMyStreet.
In early June, Adam contacted the Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, David Brazier, on the issue.
"I would be grateful if you can advise please on the council's decision to suspend use of third party website fixmystreet.com.
"Recently, I have reported a number of issues mostly relating to potholes which have subsequently been logged as issues with KCC. However, having tried to do so over the last few days, it would seem that this link has been suspended by the council.
"I am aware that KCC has its own pathway to reporting such issues via its website. However, this method is not fit for purpose, it is not mobile friendly and its use journey is nowhere near as suitable as Fix My Street.
"If KCC wants users to report only via the website then it must make improvements or look for a way to work with Fix My Street to provide a more seamless integration. Suspending the ability to report through this channel is not an option. Councillors across Folkestone & Hythe regularly advise residents to use this channel on social media as it is the most effective way for them to report issues, particularly as many of them only have a mobile device and are much more able to report issues in this way.
"KCC should be doing what it can to encourage and appreciate the help of the public in fixing these issues, not preventing them or making it harder for them to do so.
"Please can you advise when this facility will be restored or, if it is not, what KCC will be doing to improve its own reporting tool in order to make it fit for purpose and accessible for all?"
In a response on 14th June, David Brazier tried to defend the suspension, saying:
"We have recently reviewed the use of Fixmystreet by Kent Residents and had to take the difficult decision to stop accepting reports in this way for a number of reasons which are as follows:
"The level of information provided by Fixmystreet often doesn't include enough detail, leading to our staff being unable to locate defects or leading to unnecessary delays in getting the issue to the right teams.
"The Fixmystreet system generates an email to KCC which can take up to 5 working days to be processed and then must be manually entered into our own highway system. This leads to delays in investigating and repairing defects as well as costing KCC and Highways much more to manage every enquiry.
"Where many Districts and Borough Councils in Kent no longer offer an email service, we have found that most types of issues are being forwarded to KCC to deal with and where problems are not our responsibility, this again leads to delays for customers whilst we find ways to forward on those enquiries to 3rd parties.
"Very few enquiries came in via Fixmystreet (less than a hundred per month, compared to the 3000 to 5000 that customers report via our own reporting system).
"KCC have spent many years listening to customer needs for our own reporting system and we believe that our reporting tool has evolved to capture the right level of information required, to enable an instant response to be provided to our customers by defects being sent straight to the right teams within highways. Customers can search for locations using a variety of maps, asset numbers, What 3 Words and address lookups where they can upload photos as well as add the necessary detail to help us prioritise repairs. Our reporting tool is fully mobile responsive, so can be used from tablets, smartphones, iPad's etc and the maps/screen will automatically adjust according to your device type.
"We are carrying out a review of the existing reporting tool at present and further enhancements will be coming over the next year or so which will make it even easier to use and we will hopefully be able to provide much more functionality for Kent residents, businesses and visitors so that they can not only report issues but also find improved information for their own areas."
Adam was hugely disappointed with the response, saying:
"The case that you make for ceasing to work with this platform is flawed in that it asks for the same details (location, description, image) as your own website and that it doesn't seem to matter which platform is used to report issues in terms of ensuring a timely response.
"Recently I've reported a significant number of issues in the area that I live and the ones that were recificed first (despite this not being reported first) were those reported via Fixmystreet, more significant and urgent cases that were reported via KCC website have been attended too more recently and there are some which are significant that no matter which platform was used that remain dangerous. Your point is further undermined in suggesting that there are not many reported via this tool also as if it's the case that there aren't that many being reported, surely it isn't such an issue to keep the link available?
"Regarding the KCC functionality itself, clunky is an understatement, you mention the various ways you can pinpoint a location:
- Post Code - How many people know this for a street other than the one that they live in?
- Street name - on many streets this could be some way from the defect and not be feasible to find the nearest sign.
- Maps - Not easily to use to zoom in, can be highly sensitive
- What3Words - not widely used and requires use of a separate platform
"By contrast, Fixmystreet provides a simple geolocating service where you just have to acknowledge the point that you're standing.
"Further, each time you report something on KCC website you have to enter your contact details, this is cumbersome and time consuming which is a barrier to many using the service. By having an account facility, FixMyStreet deals with this issue in storing personal details, I don't see why this is not possible on KCC website, or that in doing so, you can view all reports that you've made in one place, this can be done via FHDC website for certain matters and Fixmstreet also allows this, why not KCC?
"Reviewing this over the next year or so is not good enough for the residents of the area that are complaining of cracked alloy wheels and bicycle accidents, particularly given the high council tax rates in the area."
Not only is it disappointing that these potholes are not being managed more proactively, it now seems that you do not take the concerns of residents who are trying to help you with this problem seriously."