Annual Report Toolkit

Annual Report Toolkit

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‘What you do is absolutely central in ensuring that the environment your residents live and work in is one that’s well managed and enjoyable.’

Huw Merriman
MP for Bexhill and Battle

Member, Transport Committee

Why report?

Photo of Secretary of State for Transport_Grant Shapps

‘It is important that the public understand why an authority has introduced civil parking enforcement … supporting wider transport objectives, in particular keeping traffic moving, rather than raising revenue.’

Guidance for local authorities on enforcing parking restrictions
Secretary of State for Transport
(currently Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP)

Parking and traffic enforcement is an issue that provokes strong views from the public, and this in turn is reflected in media coverage of civil enforcement matters.

An Annual Report – well structured, accessible and utilising the best available communication mediums – provides an opportunity to set out clearly and transparently the ‘what, why and how’ of your civil enforcement activities. By doing so, you will be providing the vital context around the traffic management objectives that lie beneath, which are ultimately in place to meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors.

Demonstrate transparency in objectives, approach, decision making and actions

Ensure a coordinated, consistent communication stream with stakeholders

Build community understanding of the ‘what, and how’ of civil enforcement

Monitor trends to help shape and drive future strategy, projects and innovation

Save time and resources otherwise spent responding to enquiries, FOIs, etc.

‘It was a real honour and privilege for us to be shortlisted for the PARC awards, let alone be recognised as Overall Winner. Although we have a small team here, the hard work we all put in to create the report is something we’re very proud of.

‘What content is included, how it is structured and presented is so important in creating an informative and interesting report, and the team has never shied away from being open and transparent to readers with the work we undertake.’

Matt Jones
Parking Services Manager
Lincolnshire County Council
(Overall Winner 2020: 2018/19 Reports)

Producing an Annual Report:
5 Steps to Success

Image of jigsaw showing 5 Steps to Success

Step 1

Your service – the what, why and how

With press and public attention often on enforcement issues, explain clearly and transparently why parking and traffic management is needed in your community, and the local factors that impact on how you balance the requirements of different stakeholders, from residents to visitors to businesses.

An introduction from your Portfolio Holder provides the ideal start and sets the scene for your report, with a clear narrative that parking provision and control are essential elements of local transport strategy.

Explain why parking and other traffic restrictions (bus lanes, moving traffic, littering from vehicles) are needed, and whether there are any local factors that impact on how your authority balances the requirements of different stakeholders (i.e. residents; businesses; commuters; visitors; schools and Blue Badge holders).

It will also make clear that civil enforcement is not intended to be punitive, and that the local authority is genuinely committed to trying to educate motorists to achieve a safe and efficient network without the need for continual enforcement.

The narrative in this section could include:

  • How parking management contributes to the success of your local area.
  • Your objectives and success in achieving these.
  • Commitment to a fair and proportionate approach to enforcement.
  • A summary of successes and challenges.
  • Information on partnership working.

As a next step, everyone has a parking story, and this usually relates to enforcement. The Annual Report is your opportunity to explain that enforcement is only one aspect of your work, and to highlight the parking services that you provide.

Content might include:

  • A summary of on-street and off-street parking provision; the detail of which can be provided by web links. Web links are also a critical element to help users connect with your online services.
  • Permit schemes.
  • Season tickets.
  • Promoting safety at the school gates.
  • Park and ride.
  • Cycle and motorbike parking.
  • Supporting events.
  • Blue badges.
  • Reporting of nuisance parking / abandoned vehicles.
  • Online services.
  • Customer engagement and feedback.

Step 2

Innovation and new developments

Explain what has changed / planned changes, either as a result of feedback from local stakeholders or developments in technology. Outline the potential benefits from these changes.

Moving with the times, this is an opportunity to explain your approach to improving the user experience. Set out what has changed – or planned changes – either as a result of feedback from local stakeholders, or developments in technology. Outline the potential benefits from these changes and your commitment to stakeholder consultation and engagement.

Areas to cover might include:

  • Problem solving: how issues have been recognised and a solution worked through.
  • Improving the user experience in parking: technological innovation, additional / updated parking provision.
  • Feedback from consultations and steps that have been taken in response – ‘you asked; we delivered’.
  • Adoption of more flexible approaches to parking tariffs.
  • New payment methods.
  • New ways of keeping in touch with customers (e.g. social media).
  • Targeted initiatives (e.g. with schools, businesses and other partners).

Step 3

Education, enforcement and appeals

Explain why enforcement is needed; what steps are taken to inform the public to promote compliance; your authority’s commitment to fair and proportionate enforcement, and experience from appeals to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

It is a good idea to dedicate some space in your Annual Report to explaining the aims and objectives of civil parking and traffic enforcement in your community, providing information on any initiatives to educate and inform stakeholders, experience from representations and appeals, as well as – crucially – as much statistical information as necessary to clearly illustrate fair and proportionate enforcement.

Such a section could include details of:

  • Links to common restrictions and signage.
  • Publicity campaigns.
  • Warning notices and your approach to first-time contraventions.
  • How you work with partner agencies, such as schools.
  • Who is involved in the process? In-house teams, contractors, partners, etc.
  • Particular parking schemes, such as controlled zones.
  • Links to parking policies and guidance.
  • A ‘day in the life’ of a civil enforcement officer.
  • New technology you use for enforcement.
  • Links to enforcement activity, geographically.
  • An overview of challenges, representations and appeal statistics.
  • A glossary of terms.

Publishing policies on the exercise of discretion

The Statutory Guidance (Section 10, Paragraph 4) stipulates that authorities should formulate (with advice from their legal department) and then publish their policies on the exercise of discretion.

Links to these policies, together with any context on how they are applied in practice (including reference to flexibility) could be included within your Annual Report. It is always important to emphasise that each case is decided on its own merits.

Dispelling myths with facts

 Your Annual Report is also a perfect opportunity to dispel common myths that your department hears around enforcement, and to instead focus on the relevant facts.

Why not hold a workshop internally to identify common myths associated with your authority’s parking and traffic enforcement operations. You can then create content for your Annual Report to dispel these myths, focused on the facts.

Some of the common myths PATROL hears reported through its member authorities include:

  • ‘CEOs have targets they have to meet they’re on commission’
  • ‘Ignore the PCN, it will go away’
  • ‘Yellow lines are OK on a Sunday’
  • ‘I wasn’t the driver, so it’s not my problem’
  • ‘I can use the Blue Badge, because I’m getting their shopping’

Step 4

Transparency in finance

You have a ready opportunity within your Annual Report to clearly set out the income, expenditure and – crucially – use of any surplus of your department. A transparent approach is one of the key ways to dispel negative, incorrect assumptions.

There is a strong public and press perception that civil parking enforcement acts as a ‘cash cow’ for local authorities. Therefore, the clear presentation of financial information can help to convey transparency in this respect. Consider the inclusion of:

  • Headline figures on income expenditure, with links to further detail.
    • You should also consider using diagrams, graphs and infographics to communicate complex financial information in a more accessible, digestible way.
  • Separate off-street and on-street parking income and expenditure.
  • Trends over recent years.
  • How any surplus (if applicable) may be spent.
  • Specifics on projects that are supported by a surplus and / or provide links to committee reports that demonstrate decision-making in respect of surplus.

Step 5

Utilising digital channels

We live in a time of ever-increasing, unstoppable evolution to digital, online and accessible communications, and being able to engage in such a way is now often an expectation, rather than a ‘nice to have’.

PATROL encourages local authorities to harness digital channels and other innovative forms of communication to better reach and engage with their communities around civil enforcement through an Annual Report. This could mean utilising a digital medium (e.g. video or animation) to present certain sections, hosting content on a website and using web links from your report, or producing an entirely online Annual Report.

The use of digital channels, particularly video, is crucial in continuing to reach a broad audience mix.

  • By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — this figure is 15 times higher than it was in 2017 (Cisco 2020).
  • YouTube is now the second most popular website after Google (Amazon 2020), with much of this attributed to the younger ‘Generation Z’ (those born between 1996 and 2010).
  • What’s more, video content has been show to significantly increase retention of information – with 95% of a message retained when watched in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text (Insivia 2017).

A few things to consider:

  • Do you need to fill up space in your report with information that is hosted elsewhere? Ensure timeless and ‘everyday’ content is hosted on your parking services website and use web links to link to it from your report. This keeps the report focused on the content specific to the year in question and avoids padding. This timeless content hosted elsewhere could include:
    • Lists of car parks.
    • Information on paying or challenging a PCN.
    • Applying for a Blue Badge
    • Frequently Asked Questions.
    • Staff and personnel information.
  • Content should be optimised to display for smartphones / tablets: 57% of all internet traffic, globally, is via mobile and smartphone
  • Video is king: 
    • Animation can be a cost-effective way of creating video and can be more easily edited for re-purposing.
    • Research stock footage providers that may be able to supply generic video / animation that can be applied to your specific messages.
  • Too much scrolling = boredom:
    • Link via web links to content hosted elsewhere (for example, your parking services website).
    • Keep sentences short.
    • Break up content with bullets / lists.
    • Use headings for emphasis.
  • Can what is said in words be communicated more easily in visuals? Infographics are a great way to present stats / figures / achievements, etc.
    • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
    • Visuals can improve learning and retention by 400%.

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What about design?

Lizzie Unwin
Freelance Graphic Designer
and 2020 PARC Review Group member

Great design means a lot more than a few nice pictures and fonts – though these are both still important considerations…

Graphic design can often be overlooked as a ‘nice to have’ or surplus to requirement, particularly when presenting information that could be considered necessary or ‘normal’. There is also often a tendency to see graphic design as a barrier or hurdle to getting the job done, when in fact it should be the opposite and make both the presentation and retention of information easier. The other fatal mistake is to see design as having to be complicated, sophisticated or ‘impressive’. As the famous line from the TV series Mad Men goes, ‘make it simple, but significant.’

With this in mind, the most important thing your authority can do when thinking about graphic design for its next Annual Report is ask itself this question: ‘How can we show and tell who we are, what we do and why it matters in a visual, but simple way?’

Once you’ve written up the ‘words’ of your next Annual Report, why not start by thinking about showing some of the more complicated or lengthy sections (or part of them) in photos or diagrams instead? Now move on to the less complicated sections and so on. Hopefully by the end your report will be punctuated with design elements that will really help engage your audiences.

There are no right or wrong ways to do it!

Circular pattern of icons relating to graphic design

A few ‘top tips’

White icon of an open document shining out to the reader depicting keeping a readers interest

Always aim for a consistent brand (in other words, look and feel) to your report. This might be a particular colour scheme, the same fonts (or groups of fonts), a set of icons that all look similar or using a particular type of shape to frame images and content.

White icon of human eye in a focus square depicting attention on a piece of content

It’s a good idea to ‘pepper’ graphics (photos, diagrams, icons, etc.) throughout the report to keep readers engaged, particularly in relation to key information you think is important for the reader to know.

White icon of a camera depicting photography

Try and avoid using ‘stock photography’, if at all possible. If one of your team has a smartphone with a camera, take the opportunity to go out and photograph the work you’re doing, your town or city, your people, signs, etc. Original, on-location images really help bring a report to life.

White icon of a pencil and data points depicting graphics of figures

If you’re presenting statistics on PCN numbers or appeals, can you use a pie chart, a bar graph or an infographic to show the information in a digestible format alongside a table?

White icon of a magnifying glass depicting navigation of a document

Can you use a visual ‘theme’ (for example, a set of icons) to indicate different sections of your report (Customer Service, Innovation, Enforcement, etc.? These could be introduced in the contents page and then used consistently throughout the document.

Get inspired:
Shortlisted 2018/19 reports

To help you visualise how the Six Steps to Success can be incorporated into the production of a clear and effective Annual Report, PATROL has included some examples below of reports (as well as particular elements within reports) that made the shortlist for this year’s PARC (Parking Annual Reports by Councils) Awards.

Paul Nicholls
Parking Strategy and Contracts Manager
Brighton & Hove City Council
and 2020 PARC Review Group Chair

‘It has been an absolute pleasure to chair the independent Review Group this year and, particularly, to see so many high-quality reports submitted. Huge congratulations to the winners and thanks to all those authorities that submitted a report – there are so many great examples of best practice in tackling important local issues.’

Producing an Annual Report makes you eligible to enter the PATROL PARC (Parking Annual Reports by Councils) Awards. The PARC Awards are your opportunity to be recognised for expressing how you are delivering an outstanding service in your area, which will set an example to other authorities across England and Wales, outside London.

The Awards are presented at an annual reception at the House of Commons, where shortlisted authorities are invited to attend.

Read an article on the 2020 PARC Awards (which recognised 2018/19 Annual Reports here.

Find out more about the PARC Awards and how to submit an entry here.

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‘Reporting is an important element of accountability. The transparency given by regular and consistent reporting should help the public understand and accept civil parking enforcement.’

Guidance for local authorities on enforcing parking restrictions
Secretary of State for Transport