1. Did you know that FixMyStreet reports can be sent directly into backend systems?

    By default, FixMyStreet reports are sent via email to the most appropriate available email address at the responsible authority. When the service first launched in 2007 that made perfect sense, but these days we understand that this is not always convenient for councils using backend systems to manage their fault reports.

    The good news is that reports don’t have to be sent via email anymore; they can be sent directly into whichever system(s) you’re using via an Open311 API – and it can be done for free!

    The bad news is that, while this is not a new piece of functionality, it isn’t a very well-known one! We’re trying to change that.

    What is Open311?

    In a nutshell, it’s a free, international technology, known as an open standard, that allows civic reporting services and systems to ‘talk to’ each other.

    Setting up an Open311 API endpoint for FixMyStreet will enable you to receive reports from FixMyStreet.com and the app directly into your backend system(s) instead of via email. It will also allow you to close/update reports on FixMyStreet.com or the app when work is completed.

    Open311 isn’t new (we’ve been using it to connect to council systems since 2011), but it still isn’t as widely known as it deserves to be.

    Getting started with Open311

    Setting up an Open311 endpoint yourself to provide access to one or more of your current services shouldn’t take you more than a few days of development: it usually only needs the support of your technical team and some project management time. We can also build and maintain the integration for you if desired for a small annual fee. 

    You can find plenty more information here, and you can read our full Open311 technical specification on GitHub. For any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. 

    About FixMyStreet

    If you’re reading this you probably already know what FixMyStreet is, but just in case you don’t: FixMyStreet is a free service built by us, civic technology charity mySociety, to make it easier for anyone to digitally report a problem in their local area without needing to have any knowledge of council boundaries or responsibilities.

    The categories of problems that can be reported via FixMyStreet are dictated by you, the council, and we’re always willing to work with you to ensure you are receiving all of the information you need.

    FixMyStreet routinely includes the following information in its reports:

    • User’s name, email address, and, if given, phone number
    • Report category
    • Report title and description
    • Easting & northing, latitude & longitude
    • Nearest road to the pin placed on the map (automatically generated by Bing Maps)
    • Nearest postcode to the pin placed on the map (automatically generated)

    17 years on from its launch, FixMyStreet acts as a national reporting platform, bringing all of the local authorities and government organisations together on one system, triaging reports between councils at all levels, highways agencies and housing associations. There’s also a Pro version of the software, available for councils that want to use it as their own, provided by our owned subsidiary SocietyWorks. 

    Got a question about FixMyStreet? Drop us a message

    Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

  2. Statement from mySociety regarding misuse of FixMyStreet data

    We sometimes see stories in national and regional press that use data from FixMyStreet, our long-running reporting service for local problems, to report on the best or worst places for potholes, fly-tipping and other topical issues.

    When we are asked by journalists and other organisations to provide such data, we always say no, because data from FixMyStreet cannot be used to definitively compare different areas in a fair manner

    However, because FixMyStreet is an open source platform which displays all reports publicly to facilitate an open and community-centric approach to reporting, we don’t always get a say in the matter or have a chance to provide essential caveats about the limitations of the data before it ends up misinterpreted and misused in a story that gets picked up by the press. 

     

    Why FixMyStreet data cannot be used to fairly compare areas

    While FixMyStreet is a national reporting service, the data from it paints only a small part of the picture. 

    1. FixMyStreet is one of many ways in which citizens across the UK can report a problem to their local council. In most cases, FixMyStreet works alongside authorities’ own online reporting services. Reports are also made to authorities via social media, via telephone, via email and even via word of mouth to local councillors. In those areas, FixMyStreet reports do not tell the full story.
    2. Meanwhile, a growing number of councils use the platform as their own integrated service via FixMyStreet Pro, which is run by our wholly owned subsidiary SocietyWorks. As a result, these areas may seem to have more reports about an issue than others, but this doesn’t suggest the problem is more prevalent there; instead, it suggests that more reports are being made via FixMyStreet instead of another service or channel. 
    3. Another thing to note is that a small number of councils refuse to accept reports from residents via third parties like FixMyStreet full stop, so in those areas the data would make it look as though there are no problems there at all.
    4. It is also worth noting that reports on FixMyStreet display a status to say whether the issue is fixed or not. This helps people in a community to understand what is being done, but it relies on users coming back to mark an issue as fixed when it has been. This limits the reliability of data looking at, for example, all open reports within a certain category, because some of those issues may actually have been resolved. Follow-ups sent to report-makers help to mitigate against this, while reports whose statuses haven’t changed for a long time eventually become marked as ‘unknown’. 
    5. Furthermore, categories on FixMyStreet and FixMyStreet Pro are set by each individual council to reflect the issues they can deal with and the terminology used by their internal systems. For that reason there is no such thing as a simple way to compare all potholes, for example, reported in an area, because those reports might also be listed under ‘road defect’ or ‘dip in road’.
    6. Perhaps the most crucial reason comparison is unfair using FixMyStreet data alone is the disparity in where it is used, how it is used and who it is used by across the UK. A joint research article published in the Spring 2023 edition of the Irish Local Authority Times by mySociety and the University of Stirling found that people in areas of middle deprivation report the most problems via FixMyStreet, but that does not mean those areas have the most problems. 

    Another example of this can be found in mySociety research into incidents of deprivation from 2019 which found that reports of dog fouling have a peak in areas of middle deprivation, but this does not reflect the real world incidence of dog fouling, which was found to be most prevalent in the highest areas of deprivation.

    More generally, joint research in 2018 by the University of Stirling, the University of Sheffield and mySociety into the geography of FixMyStreet reports found that there are clear differences between areas in relation to the kinds of things that are reported most frequently, making comparison on a national scale wholly unreliable. 

     

    Final thoughts

    We built FixMyStreet in 2007 to make it easier for people to report problems in their neighbourhood, with a simple reporting process and no need for any prior knowledge of council boundaries or responsibilities. Our intention was, and continues to be, to help citizens engage in their community, to get the right information to the right people – and never to pit authorities or areas against each other, or denounce the worst place for an issue.

    FixMyStreet helps to construct a snapshot of communities. It enables people to see what has been reported and to which authority, while at the same time attempting to reduce the occurrence of report duplication for the responsible authority.

    For all the reasons we’ve given, mySociety and SocietyWorks will not endorse the simplistic use of FixMyStreet data to compare, denounce or rank areas.

    Of course, that is not to say that data from FixMyStreet is not useful to analyse in other contexts, and we are always supportive of research that is carried out with more constructive premises. If you are interested, you can find a wealth of research using FixMyStreet data on the mySociety Research website.

    Councils and other authorities can find out more about FixMyStreet and how it works here: https://www.fixmystreet.com/about/information-for-councils 

  3. This is not just any Impact Report…

    …this is mySociety’s 20th anniversary Impact Report!

    Cover of mySociety's 20th anniversary impact reportThis has been a very special year – mySociety’s 20th anniversary.

    So we haven’t just put together our usual review of the past twelve months: this Impact Report is a special edition, covering our entire history since 2003.

    We look back at our beginnings as a small group of determined coders, and trace our history through the changes our services have made, here in the UK and across the world.

    Discover daring acts of (data) piracy, and learn which vandalised phone box sparked the idea for FixMyStreet. Find out how our “cheap and cheerful open web technology” has been instrumental in helping citizens tackle vital issues, from the climate emergency to human trafficking.

    It’s quite the read. Sit back, grab a mince pie if you have one to hand…and enjoy! Access the Anniversary Impact report here (web), or enjoy the print-faithful PDF version, or plain text and epub formats.

    And if you’re interested in our activity on the SocietyWorks side, don’t miss their own, just as engrossing, annual report: you can read that here.

  4. Litter pickers are powered by a little neighbourhood pride… and FixMyStreet

    If you’re a litter picker – someone who goes out with binbags, gloves and a general determination to clean up your local area – then clearly you have a well-developed sense of pride in your neighbourhood.

    Little wonder, then, that many litter pickers use FixMyStreet as they go about their voluntary clean-ups. We love to see it — and we like it even more when they give a shoutout to the service on social media!

    This cheery bunch are the Kings Heath and Brandwood Litter Pickers, who quite honestly manage to make hard toil look like a fun social event. Indeed, they do often follow up their work cleaning up the streets with a cuppa and a chat.

    Kim Hudson, the pink-haired lady in that first picture, tweeted to say that not only had they filled seven binbags in a recent outing, but they’d used FixMyStreet to report five instances of fly tipping, broken paving and drain covers. Looks like they’re not averse to a few guerrilla tactics too…

    Tweet from Parks Community UK: "Awesome work, thank you all! Those poppies are so cheerful." Self-seeded? Response from Kim: "Ahem… maybe…. You wouldn’t prosecute a cute 87yr old for ‘Guerilla tactical wildflower bombing would you?"

    We messaged Kim, and she told us, “The Kings Heath & Brandwood Litter Pickers operate in south Birmingham. 

    “We meet every Sunday at 10, and we also support other local groups if they have a grotspot. I am known as the Dawberry Fields Fairy and have been known to litter-pick in my tutu!” Kim also told us to get in touch with the group’s founder, Andrea Quigley, if we needed more details — so we did! 

    Andrea explained the how group began: “It started about four years ago. My daughter was working in Spain and, returning one Christmas, was appalled at the litter on the streets. Spain is much cleaner. So, with a friend, we started the group”.

    Their grabbers, gloves, hoops, high viz vests and other equipment are funded by Kings Heath Business Improvement District, and Birmingham City Council provide the bags.

    It’s all very well organised: “Our members adopt roads and when they join say how many hours they are prepared to do each month. 

    “Some members just adopt their own streets; others do more. Only about ten of us meet on Sundays, but the group as a whole has about 65 members who just get on with it in their locality.”

    And how does FixMyStreet fit in?

    “We regularly use FixMyStreet to log issues — usually fly tipping — and it’s extremely useful and easy to use. 

    “In the email I send to new members, I always suggest they use FixMyStreet to report issues with the council. I think our team has made a difference to the area and the community and as we use FixMyStreet, that has too.”

    We’re really glad to be playing a part in this endeavour. We also enjoyed hearing about the logistics of the group – and the fun side – from Kim and Andrea. 

    If your neighbourhood could do with a clean-up, perhaps you’ll take inspiration from the Kings Heath and Brandwood posse, and get a group of litter pickers together. Sounds like the ideal social activity: a bit of physical exertion, a sociable chat, cleaner streets for everyone – oh, and the chance to wear a tutu if you’d like.

    Who knew litter picking could be so much fun!

    A litter picker in a field of long, yellow grass, posing with their grabber out and one foot in the air
  5. FixMyStreet is now available in Welsh

    Broken street lights, fly-tipping, potholes and other local, place-based issues in Wales can now be reported to the correct authority by citizens in Welsh as well as in English via FixMyStreet, the long-running reporting service for street and environmental problems provided by civic technology charity mySociety, upon which SocietyWorks’ FixMyStreet Pro is built.

    FixMyStreet is a progressive web app that enables citizens across the UK to report local problems to the authority responsible for fixing them, even if they do not know who that is. For the first time since its launch in 2007, users in Wales wanting to make reports in Welsh will be able to view a Welsh-language version of the website and app, including a Welsh-language map provided by Mapio Cymru.

    Image shows a desktop and mobile version of the Welsh-language version of FixMyStreet, including the Welsh-language map tiles provided by Mapio Cymru

    Over half a million people in Wales speak Welsh and the Welsh Government aims to double this by 2050. Having digital services that work as well in Welsh as they do in English is key to achieving this growth in the language. Launched in 2019, Mapio Cymru is a project that aims to ensure mapping services are as good in Welsh as they are in English. Using open data sources Mapio Cymru provides a Welsh-only map of Wales. It also works with organisations across Wales to improve mapping services in the Welsh language.

    Louise Crow, Chief Executive at mySociety, said: “FixMyStreet was built to make it easier for citizens to report problems in their communities. We are delighted to be able to make the service accessible to Welsh-speaking citizens, with a fully translated reporting process and a Welsh-language map, enabling users to select the street names and locations with which they are familiar. We look forward to seeing the Welsh-language version of the service put to good use by more citizens who care about improving where they live.”

    Ben Proctor, Innovation Director at Data Orchard CIC which runs the Mapio Cymru project, said: “Digital mapping technology is really powerful and easy for organisations like mySociety to use in English. Sadly it’s not the same in Welsh. We aim to make it easier for organisations to deliver services on the highest quality Welsh-language mapping available.”

    Are you a Welsh-speaker?

    Welsh-speaking users can start using the Welsh-language version of FixMyStreet straight away by heading to cy.fixmystreet.com or downloading the FixMyStreet app from the relevant app store.

    There are gaps in Mapio Cymru’s Welsh language map because the project relies on volunteers and public bodies to contribute definitive Welsh names. Volunteers can help to plug the gaps by adding the Welsh names for features on the map (buildings, roads, mountains, fields and so on). Public bodies can help to plug the gaps by publishing the Welsh names that they hold for features under an open licence. The Mapio Cymru team is available to advise on these issues. Just visit the Mapio Cymru website.

    Image: Catrin Ellis

  6. FixMyStreet: a useful tool for councillors

    At FixMyStreet there’s nothing we like better than to see….well, streets being fixed!

    And we especially like it when people share a couple of good ‘before and after’ photos. It proves the system is working, and also helps more people discover FixMyStreet and understand what it can do.

    Here’s one that we spotted recently. First the Oxfordshire Cycling Network posted a delighted tweet to show that a path had been repaired –

    Tweet with a photo to show a nicely repaired join between cycle path and road

    – upon which, Oxford city councillor Anna Railton replied to say she’d reported it on FixMyStreet, with an image of how it had been previously:

    Photo of a cycle path joining the main road with a big rut/puddle where the two join

    We were interested to hear more about how a councillor uses FixMyStreet, so we asked Anna, who said: “I use it quite a lot. The location plus photo combination, and the fact you don’t have to work out where to send it, is invaluable.

    “It’s very good in two (or more) tier authorities where I don’t always have direct access to the right officers.”

    Anna’s right when she says that FixMyStreet routes reports to the right authority to deal with them: even if you live in an area that has, say, a city council and a county council, it knows which one deals with which types of issue — and sends your reports to National Highways where appropriate, too.

    But councillors don’t have to do all the hard work themselves: everyone in the area can also, of course, report anything that needs putting right, giving the council the benefit of many eyes on the ground as people go about their daily business. 

    “I do plug it a lot with residents!” says Anna.

    Councillors can also find the FixMyStreet local alerts very handy in their work. This free service sends you an email every time a new report is made within a defined area. 

    Not only can they see what new issues are being reported, but over time they can also get a good overview of what problems are most common, or recurring. One option is to sign up for all reports within a specific ward, which is ideal for councillors — or anyone who’s interested in their own neighbourhood.

    Thanks very much to Anna for letting us know how she uses FixMyStreet: we hope we can help bring many more smooth rides for the cyclists of Oxfordshire.

  7. FixMyStreet- for people who care about their local area

    FixMyStreet user Matt DavisMatt Davis is one of those people who not only appreciates the beauty of his surroundings, but does what he can to help preserve that beauty. A keen rambler, Matt often punctuates his walks in the countryside to make reports on FixMyStreet.

    “I’ve reported batteries dumped in forests, discarded TVs at the roadside, fly tipping in hard-to-reach dead end roads, builders’ rubble, all sorts.

    “When ask for an update on the progress I then get to go out for another nice long walk again!” 

    And what he likes about FixMyStreet is that it actually gets results. “My walking companion is always impressed by me stopping for five minutes, interacting with my phone, for something that actually gets things cleared up.”

    We thought that this photo [below], which Matt attached to one of his reports, was an excellent example of how fly tipping can mar a beautiful natural landscape. And you can see from the sign, which says “Fly tipping is a crime”, that this is a hotspot for it.

    Photo: Matt Davis. A car bumper fly tipped on a frosty corner next to a lane in the countryside. Ironically, a sign right next to it says 'fly tipping is a crime'

    Image: Matt Davis. Click to see it at a larger size.

    But as he points out, FixMyStreet is great for tackling the problem before it takes root.

    Overall the brilliance about this app is that it helps clear up areas, so that people don’t then add more to the ugliness of the countryside”, says Matt. “If there’s rubbish that has been dumped, offenders will dump more rubbish on top. By keeping it clear it prevents somebody from thinking that a particular site is an easy target.”

    When we spoke to Matt, he had just received the welcome news that he’d be joining his local town council. But that’s just the latest in a long list of public-spirited activities for his local area. Hearing of everything he’s involved in is inspiring, and not a little exhausting!

    “I’m a litter womble; I’m the towns tree warden; I also sit on the committee for the town’s allotments. I’ve recently become the chair of the Leicestershire Industrial History Society; I’m a volunteer in other areas as well – I regularly attend a private community allotment and I work at a council-owned 18th century manor house in their gardens.”

    Hearing all of this, it makes perfect sense that FixMyStreet fits so well into Matt’s daily activities. Our users are so often the people who are already going the extra mile for their community, and who don’t just notice when something’s amiss, but actually do something about it!

    “I’m very positive about FixMyStreet. It’s an excellent app that cuts out all of the fluff, and directs your problem to the appropriate department.”

    And we are delighted to hear how our service is being used. Thanks to Matt for speaking to us about it, and three cheers for people like him!

  8. Making streets safer for everyone, with FixMyStreet

    Narrow pavements, potholes and obstructed paths can make access difficult for pedestrians at the best of times — but if you’re in an electric wheelchair, such issues can make journeys dangerous or even impossible.

    That’s why Alistair Slade reports them on FixMyStreet. He knows he’s not the only one who might be forced into oncoming traffic because of overgrown hedges; or where obstructions designed to keep out traffic will also prevent him from getting any further. The same problems beset anyone on a mobility scooter or in a wheelchair.

    Tree roots making the pavement surface uneven, or verges encroaching onto the walkway can bring a very real risk of his chair tipping over. And if a dropped kerb is missing or just too high, Alistair may well be unable to cross the road.

    Some of the photos Alistair has included with his reports: click on each one to see it at a larger size. These may look like ordinary pathways… until you try to see them through the eyes of someone in an electric wheelchair.

    Everyone should have equal access to pedestrian routes — in fact, this right is inscribed in the Equality Act of 2010, as we discovered when we spoke to the Heavy Metal Handcyclist in 2010.

    And this FixMyStreet user’s local council must now be much better informed about such barriers to access. Alistair, who was once Deputy Mayor, makes regular reports, generally attaching a photograph to clearly convey what the  the world looks like from the seat of a wheelchair.

    His most notable success was the removal of anti-cycling bars that were too close for electric wheelchairs to get through — but he continues to report all the issues he discovers, making his little patch of the world safer for every type of traveller.

    We hope that others will do the same: after all, wheelchair users shouldn’t have to do all the hard work needed to ensure they can get around. If you see an issue that makes access difficult, hop onto FixMyStreet and get it reported. Your local wheelchair users will be glad!

    Banner image: Markus Spiske; all other photos by Alistair Slade.

  9. Now Croatians can pop a report on Popravi

    Another FixMyStreet site has launched in another international location, adding to the number of citizens across the world who can enjoy keeping their neighbourhoods safe and clean with the codebase’s simple functionality. 

    Popravi.to (‘Fix It’) will enable the citizens of Croatia to report issues to the authority that will get them resolved, and to make sure that everyone understands how it works there’s a jaunty video:

    Open source 

    The FixMyStreet codebase is open source, meaning that anyone with the required technical knowhow can pick it up, tweak it for their local context, and create an issue-reporting website for their own country, all for free.

    And that’s just what Gong — an NGO not entirely unlike mySociety, but Croatian — have done, with help from a cohort of Code for Croatia members. These volunteer coders gave up their time over a period of ten months to get the website up and running, led by Gong’s Miroslav Schlossberg as a project manager, who says that the project also had the wider aim of promoting open civic technology. 

    A report page from Popravi, the Coratian FixMystreet, showing a map with some report pins on it

    Gong came into being in 1997, choosing an acronym for their name to stand for “Građani Organizirano Nadgledaju Glasanje — or ‘Citizens Monitor Voting in an Organised Manner’. In time, as their activities expanded beyond elections, they realised that the name Gong itself was perfectly apt for an organisation that could be said to be sounding an alarm wherever they find corruption or a threat to democracy.

    With all of this background in mind, it may come as little surprise that the same Gong/Code for Croatia coalition are also behind the country’s Freedom of Information site Imamo Pravo Znati, which runs on our Alaveteli platform.

    Not least among their initial tasks will be securing the cooperation and understanding of the authorities to whom reports will be sent. “We are counting on the local government to recognise Popravi.to as a service that makes it easier for them to detect and locate problems and damage”, says Miroslav, “and to appreciate the contribution of citizens who report them.” 

    We recognise this sentiment very well, having spent several years doing just that here in the UK for FixMyStreet.com  — and we wish Gong the best of luck as they begin on the same journey.

  10. Rewild road verges with FixMyStreet

    At this time of year, when plants run rampant, we see two common types of report on FixMyStreet: those asking their councils to mow the local verges, and those asking them why they have cut the wildflowers and grasses back.

    With increasing amounts of coverage in the press about wildflowers and the benefits they can provide, we spoke to British wild plant conservation charity Plantlife to understand more about why citizens might be using FixMyStreet to request some flower-based improvements to their local road verges.

    Not just a pretty place

    According to Plantlife, more than 700 of species of wildflower can be found alongside UK road verges. If they’ve been left unmown in your neighbourhood, you’ll know that in these summer months they really are beautiful, with poppies, convolvulus, meadowsweet, celandine, thrift, clover and harebells (to name but a few) scattering a variety of colour through the grasses.

    But there’s more than the visual appeal: these verges also improve air quality, buffer noise, and give a home to precious insect life.

    With the correct verge management, Plantlife estimates that the 313,000+ miles of rural road verges in this country could become a sanctuary for 400 billion more wild flowers, as well as providing a habitat to all the bees, birds, butterflies and many other creatures that count on such flowers to survive.

    A change of direction

    So given all these benefits, why aren’t councils already leaving their verges to grow?

    In some cases it’s the perceived expense of specialist equipment; in others it’s the fear that longer grass creates road safety issues (such as a lack of visibility at junctions) or attracts litter. Sometimes, it simply comes down to residents preferring closely mown grass.

    As Plantlife points out in their Managing Grassland Road Verges guide though, it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. There are lots of ways that councils can easily, safely and cost-effectively manage road verges to encourage wildflower growth, without compromising on the ‘neat’ look of an area and still ensuring safety.

    Wild verges aren’t left entirely to their own devices: they just require a different regime of care, and still get cut back — just in a way that encourages biodiversity.

    The picture is changing. Freedom of Information data collected by The Press Association earlier this year revealed that 7 in 10 councils are already taking steps to encourage wildflowers on road verges.

    That being the case, giving your support by requesting a wildflower road verge in your local area could help to move those steps along and sow the seeds of better wildflower road verge management in places where opinions are still divided.

    How to request a wildflower road verge via FixMyStreet

    1. Go to fixmystreet.com or open the FixMyStreet app.
    2. Enter the area or postcode of the road verge, or if you’re making the report on-the-go and you’re (safely!) standing right by the verge, you can select ‘use my current location’.
    3. Drag the pin across the map to the exact location of the road verge and hit ‘continue’.
    4. Select a category. It’s worth noting that categories on FixMyStreet are set by each council to reflect their internal departments and their own responsibilities. For this reason, you might be able to select a specific verge-related category, such as ‘verges’ ‘wildlife verges’ or ‘grass verges’, but if your council hasn’t supplied us with a designated category for verges, you might need to select one such as ‘roads’ or ‘other’.
    5. Add a photo of the verge if you want to. If not, click ‘continue’ again.
    6. In the ‘Summarise your problem’ box, type a title such as ‘Wildflower road verge request’.
    7. In the ‘Explain what’s wrong’ box, tell your council the reasons why you would like to encourage it to manage the road verge in a way that maximises flowering plant diversity. See Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign for advice – you could even link to it to help the council get the guidance they need.
    8. Once you’re ready, click ‘continue’, fill in your details (if you’re not already logged in) and then hit ‘Submit’ to complete your request.
    9. Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign also has posters you can print out and display in your window, if you’d like to get your neighbours on board.
    10. Experiencing pushback or (almost worse) no response from your council? Try getting your MP or local councillors to join your call, using WriteToThem.com.