Radix and Compex join forces to help Newcastle City Council deliver a better public parking service

Radix and Compex join forces to help Newcastle City Council deliver a better public parking service.

Newcastle upon Tyne is a much improved place to park, thanks to the efforts of Newcastle City Councils Enforcement Officers and their Radix handheld computers with Compex CLink software.

Enforcement Officers employed by the Council are responsible for ensuring that drivers use on-street parking facilities and the citys car parks properly, providing a fair system for all who wish to leave their vehicles whilst they work, shop or simply enjoy the city.

Equipped with Radix rugged handheld computers with integral printers, the City Councils Enforcement Officers are empowered and equipped to deal swiftly and decisively with parking offenders.

To the Enforcement Officers, the handheld computer and printers they carry, are more than just technology though; the Radix units are regarded as critical tools without which it would not be possible for them to do their jobs effectively.

Before the Radix handhelds were introduced to Newcastle, by parking enforcement solution provider Compex Development and Marketing, a manual paper and pen system was in operation. Naturally, there were some early concerns about adopting a computerised solution, but the Enforcement Officers quickly discovered that the Radix technology and Compex software was intuitive and easy to use.

Parking supervisor Keith Evans explains that the Officers have adopted the system now, and even adapted it to suit their individual requirements.

Everybody uses the same Radix handheld and printer models, but weve modified some of the cases to make them more wearable for those Officers who dont want to hold the computer for long periods. Weve attached a couple of extra fabric fasteners so that they can use the computer hands-free! Other Officers are quite happy to simply hold the device upright when entering offender information to produce an Excess Charge notice

Keith explains if you want to make a system like this work in an on-street environment, you have to think carefully about the Officers and how they will use the equipment on a day to day basis. This system works for us because we recognise that our Enforcement Officers are individuals.

The new solution is delivering considerable benefit now, but the Council faced some interesting challenges during the early stages of implementation.

Obviously there were those who were unsure about replacing our tried and tested paper based system with handheld computers, but our Officers have warmed to the system now and wouldnt want to go back to the old paper pads.

Recognising that the street life of the handhelds is likely to be at least three years, Radix and Compex were keen to ensure that the solution implemented at Newcastle provides capacity for expansion. Keith confirms that the City Council arent standing still when it comes to the introduction of new systems to improve public services.

Were still using paper and pen for some other on-street duties, but we anticipate that these will be computerised in due course. We expect to be issuing Fixed Daily Charges before long, and this should enable us to reduce our manual workload and post-processing even further. The Department is improving all its operational processes as we look forward to decriminalisation*, possibly as early as 2006

The impact of the handheld computing solution has already had a major positive impact upon the data processing workload in the Parking Department. Administrator Susan Harrod confirms that things have never been the same since the new processing system arrived.

It wasnt unusual for us to have to employ temporary staff just so that we could process the paper Excess Charge Notices issued by the Enforcement Officers. The whole process was manual and paper intensive and every single notice needed to be entered into the system by hand.

As far as Susan is concerned, the Department is a far more efficient business unit, now that the Compex processing system automatically receives Excess Charge Notice information from the Radix handhelds via simple docking stations.

The time and effort weve saved has been immense. Were now far more efficient as a Department and were able to deploy staff to attend to other important public services such as disabled parking scheme management, whilst also providing them with greater job satisfaction.

*As Police Forces have many other responsibilities, parking enforcement has a lower priority than crime fighting and other traffic offences. Decriminalisation relieves the Police of the responsibility to ensure that certain traffic restrictions are observed by devolving parking enforcement to local authorities.

Prior to decriminalisation the responsibility for enforcing waiting and loading restrictions was the job of traffic wardens employed by the local Police Authority. Any driver who parked illegally (such as on a double yellow line) was issued a parking ticket. If this was not paid, the debt was pursued through the criminal court. Local Authorities may now apply to central government for the power to enforce waiting and loading restrictions themselves.

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