30 April 2009

Sharing of Office Space

In the town that we are located in, the county council also had an office which was used as a registry office. During the implementation and minor refurbishment of our offices to introduce a One Stop Shop, we worked with the county to include the registrars in our offices along with the doubling up of a meeting room to hold weddings. The county council have now vacated their building and our borough council now receives a rental from the county for the office space and income from the weddings held in our meeting room.

Further information: Sara Haslam, North Warwickshire District Council (SaraHaslam@NorthWarks.gov.uk)

Thanks for this example 

Under used community rooms - now used!

Under used community rooms - each of our blocks of flats had been allocated a community room for social purposes but it was clear from  monitoring the usage patterns that a few were literally never used. After consultation with the residents, some have been returned as single bedroom flats, generating income for the council of approximately £2.5k a year and also reducing the housing waiting list. So far we have converted 3 back to flats and are looking to convert a further 2. 

Further information: Sara Haslam, North Warwickshire District Council (SaraHaslam@NorthWarks.gov.uk

Thanks for this example 

29 April 2009

Bookmark: Systems thinking!

For those of you who have read my article below on 21st Century Target Setting (http://smallcreativeideas.blogspot.com/2009/03/21st-century-target-setting.html) you will know that I want to see a change to how we manage performance in the public services. 

Here is a great site that I heartily recommend: http://www.thesystemsthinkingreview.co.uk/ If you do nothing else today - watch the video by John Seddon and bookmark the site! 

Remote access in Havering

Our team that supports schools with their finances and information management system has remote access to every school’s admin network. This saves considerable time in visiting the schools to upgrade software, respond to queries and support them in the management of their budget and pupil data. Staff in the teams can “call up” the software module on which there is a query and see exactly what the problem is and talk the caller through the solution.

Using remote access to schools the team has configured installation and upgrade routines to enable school’s MIS software, to be automatically upgraded. All automated upgrades are scheduled to run overnight so there is no ‘down time’.

The same team uses software that allows the secure exchange of data between the local authority and schools. This means that the schools’ budget allocations are provided electronically rather than hard copy by post, and schools’ quarterly monitoring returns are collected for uploading onto the Council’s main accounts. Confidential pupil data/statutory returns and various documents, reports and files are also transferred securely.

Thanks to LB Havering for these examples

Creative thinking about income generation

Prompted by the information from Oxfordshire, I dug out some old notes on income generation - that I thought might be helpful. Below is a list of 'resource types' that all voluntary and public services have in some way. I have used the whimsical (and probably not very ethical) example of what a local church might do to generate income - to illustrate these resource types. I hasten to add that I am not advocating any of these methods at all! (One of the first rules of income generation is that whatever you do - has to accord with your ethical principles and legal parameters.) 
  • Staff - Knowledge & Creativity (Vicar offers counselling to local businesses)
  • Staff - Staff time (Choir Sings for Local Radio to create Christmas jingles)
  • Staff - As potential customers  (Send a list of parishioners to religious publisher)
  • Staff - Non work expertise (Church Warden's model making expertise to sell to local firm of architects)
  • Information - Patterns of performance & results.(Send popular hymns chosen for services to music publishers)
  • Information - About individual clients / users etc. (Send names of babies Christened to the local branch of Mothercare)
  • Physical Assets - Buildings (Use the Church steeple for a mobile phone mast)
  • Physical Assets - General Equipment (Loan church hall chairs to local hotel for big events)
  • Physical Assets - Specialist Equipment (Charge for access to register of births and deaths to people researching family trees)
  • Stakeholders - As potential customers (Church Commissioners to offer ethical financial advice)
  • Stakeholders - As potential sponsors or supporters (Local Firms advertising in church newsletter)
  • Stakeholders - As potential partners (advertise local education evening adult ed classes)
  • Profile - ‘Brand’ reputation (Give stamp of approval to a pine furniture manufacturer)
  • Profile - Access to media and public (Charge for inserts in the newsletter such as pizza delivery businesses)
  • Systems and services - Software (Sell petty cash system to local shops)
  • Systems and services - Expertise in how things are done (Sell skills at organising large events (the fete) to local businesses wanting celebrations)
  • Systems and services - ‘Piggy backing’ existing services (Arrange to tie up marriage services with local dressmaker)
  • Waste  ...is someone else’s supply...? (Church space on weekdays use for a Local nursery)

Further information:

Information from Oxfordshire

I requested information from Oxfordshire County Council after looking at their Annual Efficiency Statement (AES) - I had some useful information in return:

  • £16k from spot purchasing of nursing beds: Oxfordshire County Council made this saving by reducing the number of block beds purchased, whilst at the same time maintaining the number of National Health beds purchased. The council no longer purchases beds in a block at Southerndown Care Home in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.
  • £13k from identifying health care tasks: A number of clients served by Oxfordshire County Council are shared care clients. This saving was made by improving the identification of tasks within a care package that are eligible for health funding in general.
  • £16k from reducing book binding spending: Oxfordshire Libraries’ expenditure on book binding had been decreasing previous to the 2007/08 AES. This was due primarily to two factors:
  1. The increasingly larger proportion of stock bought in paperback format.
  2. The increasing investment in on-line information resources. 
  • £32k from more effective income generation: At the time of the 2007-08 AES, Oxfordshire County Council was looking at ways that its Educational Advisors could generate further income for the Educational Effectiveness Service. Some examples include advisors who are registered Ofsted inspectors. Some of these advisors generate income for the Service by carrying out inspections in other authorities for Ofsted, but during County Council time meaning the income for these inspections was paid to the Service. Similarly a number of advisors have skills or experience in other aspects of work beyond the specific remit of Educational Advisor. Where possible this knowledge and experience has been made available to other authorities and organisations as a paid service. However, since the 2007-08 AES, Oxfordshire County Council’s Children, Young People and Families Directorate has been undergoing a restructure.  This previous method of income generation by Educational Advisors i not being given the same priority as it was seen to be detrimental to our own service delivery.  Our core purpose is to challenge and advise Oxfordshire schools.

Thanks to Oxfordshire County Council for this information.

Managers thinking

I have just stumbled across a site called "Thinking Managers". It goes on to say:

"Small Business Ideas: Thinking of small business ideas can make it easier to access bigger ideas in the future"

This is a website rich in ideas and frameworks for fresh thinking & creativity. Given that the source of the website is Edward de Bono and Robert Heller, this is no surprise of course.

Please visit and let me know what you think:


28 April 2009

Herefordshire Council’s small creative ideas with big results

  • Having a programme of printer rationalisation throughout our offices, replacing printers from several different suppliers with combined printers / scanners / photocopiers from one supplier
  • Combining information management training into one session so that trainees need attend once instead of booking on different sessions for Data Protection / Freedom of Information, Information Security, Data Quality and Records Management
  • Implementing a Policy Register to track what policies are held and when they are due for review
  • Use of a bicycle courier service within Hereford city which navigates through any traffic jams and is also environmentally-friendly, reducing our carbon footprint
  • Using record surveys to find out such things as where information is kept, how often it is accessed, what format it is in, and which records are vital to the interests of the organisation. Information is shared on matters such as information security and office accommodation to save further surveys having to be carried out.
  • Share information with partners to utilise their experience. Herefordshire Council works in a deep partnership with Herefordshire Primary Care Trust, and an example here would be having joint meetings, communications, training sessions and policies wherever possible to utilise expertise and reduce duplication.
  • In addition, Herefordshire Council has commenced on a transformation programme, Herefordshire Connects, which aims to replace lots of small systems (including stand-alone Access databases) with considerably fewer joined-up systems. 

Thanks to Herefordshire Council for all these examples

The Idea Store Strategy

The Idea Store Strategy, adopted by Tower Hamlets Council in 1999, was developed following recognition that major step change was required in order to increase participation in libraries and learning in Tower Hamlets. This programme was specifically designed to achieve accelerated improvement in key outcomes related to libraries and learning in particular Increased participation on leisure and cultural activities i.e.: Number of visits to public libraries/ 1,000 population (BV 117).

Further information: http://www.ideastore.co.uk/public/documents/PDF/A_Library_and_Lifelong_Learning_Development_Strategy_for_Tower_Hamlets.pdf

Thanks to LB Tower Hamlets for this example.

27 April 2009

Economies of scale gained by partnering with other authorities for purchasing.

Worcestershire County Council (WCC), along with three other Councils, is a member of a joint purchasing consortium, West Mercia Supplies.  Office and school supplies, as well as utilities supplies, are secured at advantageous costs and passed on to customers at competitive prices.  A trading surplus is derived from the consortium's trade with its customers.  Having considered the need to retain surplus within the organisation, surplus is distributed to the owning authorities. 

Thanks to Worcestershire County Council for this example. 

Mail & Courier improvements

1) Worcestershire County Council had two courier systems, one serving the education function whilst the second dealt with all other functions. These were amalgamated to create a single system with revised courier runs that : 

  • provided an improved standard of service to some establishments that had previously received only a limited service;
  • retained the existing high level of service received by other establishments;
  • made savings as a result of a courier post being deleted and the number of vehicles used reduced by one. 

2) The introduction of a policy that all post should be sent  2nd class unless there are exceptional circumstances.  This has reduced 1st class postage and resulted in savings. 

3) Mail services at County Hall have recently been reviewed; this has resulted in two separate services being merged to create a corporate service, with associated staff savings.  Further savings have been achieved by making full use of discount mail services offered by Royal Mail. 

Thanks to Worcestershire County Council for these examples.

Online ‘customer satisfaction’ surveys

We have hosted a number of online surveys on our website in recent years and around 20% of our 1400 strong Residents’ Panel now complete online rather than paper questionnaires.  Online surveys are quicker, more efficient (less resources/lower cost) and more sustainable than postal surveys.  Unfortunately, we have been very disappointed with the cost/performance of the software that has been available for this purpose.

However, during the past few weeks we have begun to explore creating surveys via the “Survey Monkey” website at http://www.surveymonkey.com.  Survey Monkey allows for faster and more efficient creation of surveys. Creating a professional looking survey, which can includes the Council’s logo and links back to our homepage at the end, now takes a fraction of the time and the site itself is low cost ($20 per month).

These are early days in our trial of Survey Monkey but the signs are extremely positive.

Further information: Bruce Hill, Improvement & Development Manager, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council: bruce.hill@tmbc.gov.uk

Thanks for this example 

26 April 2009

Reducing Stationery Costs

A simple yet effective method of reducing annual stationary spend and controlling stationary stock levels can be achieved through the introduction of an annual, one month moratorium on all stationary ordering. 

A freeze on ordering encourages staff to make best use of items already purchased, promotes cross departmental sharing of stationary stock resources and can return a cashable saving of up to 10 percent against previous annual stationary spend.  

Thanks to Peterborough City Council for this example

Transforming Peterborough

Useful website to browse for some case studies on business transformation.

23 April 2009

'Generic' headed note paper

Each department of the Council (eg Childrens, School and Families; Adult Care Services; Environment; Finance etc) has official headed paper with the relevant departmental Director's name at the head for official correspondence.  With various transformations and staff changes this headed paper can become obsolete.  A decision has been taken to create 'generic' headed paper to be used cross-departmentally without each director's name on.  This way the paper will not become obsolete due to staffing changes and each department will save on not having to replace old paper with new.

Thanks to Hertfordshire County Council for this example

Add your ideas / thoughts / suggestions here!

Everynow and then I will put post like this in - so that you can add your idea directly. Posting is open on this blog - you do not need to register. You can do contribute anonymously or with attribution. 


Some very useful links

There is a good page (among many good pages) on the IDeA website called "Organisational development good practice library" 


There are some excellent case studies - particularly around encouraging innovation. Just to pick one that stood out for me:

"Operation Talents: People feel disempowered when they believe resources and decision making are far away from them and only available through well researched business cases, pushed through layers of management. Operation Talents takes a different view; based on the belief that we have good people, well recruited, well trained and well connected with operational reality." 

(Developed by Devon & Cornwall Police)


This is worth a look as is the whole page mentioned above.

Top ten tips for getting external funding

Prompted by another blog I was just posting on - I dug these out from my files. I thought readers might be interested:

  1. Know the names of the funds you’re considering and who controls them and what they focus upon.
  2. Spend your time finding the right fund to match the aims of your project (rather than trying to ‘shoe horn’ your project into a fund you find out about).
  3. Make contact with people - ideally face to face (network) - use them to explore your ideas for the right project (and shape the proposal) against their objectives.
  4. When going for resources from external funds - the bid/no bid stage is a crucial one. Before proceeding it is always worth thinking hard - what chances have we got - will it be worth all the effort...?
  5. Check eligibility for certain funds rigorously.
  6. Funders tend to like having something to open (yellow ribbon / velvet curtains etc.) - therefore you will increase your chances of success if there is tangible or lasting something to come out of the project.
  7. Recognise the shift in culture that will be necessary in your organisation to bid successfully - the funders are not obliged to give you money - you are in competition - the funders will need to be convinced of your case. This is a different culture to one in which money/resources are allocated by the government to public services.
  8. Put in place now the information links you will need in order to put together good bids - case studies/potted histories of successful projects are very helpful.
  9. Develop a contacts database - you never now when it might be useful to contact that Spanish Eurocrat you met on holiday or just who were that team of Polish police officers that came to visit....etc. (Many EU funds require an international dimension.)
  10. Invest in building partnerships locally - these take time to build and nurture. Check for signs that they are working well or not. Remember you are not seeking to impose your agenda on them (nor they on you...) ...what is your joint agenda?

Hope that these points help - although they may be very obvious

22 April 2009

New printers for Harlow

The idea: A comprehensive review of Reprographics and Printing identified a possibility for savings through the rationalisation and extension of the current Civic arrangement for the lease of copying equipment. The intention was to make best use of an existing Framework agreement with the current majority supplier for this type of equipment. This presented the opportunity to upgrade current machines that are over 2 years old, to achieve savings on current leasing costs and costs per copy. The justification for a 60 month as opposed to a 48 month term was that the savings that the council could obtain with the former were significantly higher. An added benefit is the standardisation of the supply process for this type of equipment across all Council Service areas, whilst providing the most flexible, up to date and functional solution for the business.

The results: The proposal was to upgrade current machines aged over 2 years and to change the existing contract for Civic Multifunctional Devices (MFDs) with Contractor A. to a 60 week (5 year term) term via the OGC Framework for the Civic MFDs. Machines currently owned or leased by outlying Services will be obtained via the 5 year framework agreement as and when required making a minimum annual saving of £3,903.12

Leadership: Project sponsored at Head of Service level as a corporate initiative with support from Finance Director. The contract was approved following a joint decision of the Procurement Manager, S151 Officer, Monitoring Officer and Strategic Director in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of Policy and Resources Committee.

Learning: The majority of the machines in the Civic Centre were leased from Contractor A. on a three year term that commenced on 22/12/2006. All of these machines were modern MFDs i.e. act as a photocopier, a networked printer for each floor for documents over 5 pages, and as a scanner and fax machine. This lease contract was originally negotiated to bring the maximum benefit available at the time: the contract includes call out for faults within 8 hours. All consumables except for paper were included in the contract: this includes toners, staples parts and labour.

A major benefit of networked MFDs is that large volume printing can be routed to these, rather than to desktop printers, thus reducing the cost per copy of printing. In addition they remove the need for separate fax and scanning equipment.

A number of other machines are owned or leased by Services via several different contractors. The majority of outlying copiers cannot be networked and do not have additional functions.

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) now offer a compliant Framework agreement RM450 with Contractor A. Under this arrangement, Contractor A could offer 3, 4, 5 year terms as standard pricing.

OGC is also able to offer a number of similar Framework arrangements via other contractors. As part of due diligence an investigation was carried out with Contractor B. at the beginning of the project to ensure that:

a. The functionality of the machines being offered by Contractor A. was functional and suitable for Harlow Council’s requirements

b. That pricing and savings were similar

It was found that the contracts, terms and equipment offered by both Contractors A and B through the OGC Framework were comparable.

The Facilities department confirmed that the machines from Contractor A. were the most suitable on the market when obtained, had proved reliable and the call out arrangement had been satisfactory. Due to the termination penalties on the current contract with Contractor A. it would not be cost effective to terminate and seek another supplier. In addition the Council already owned the ICT software and drivers for these machines and so to continue with the same or similar models was the most cost effective option.

For these reasons it was decided to approach Contractor A. to request proposals that would enable the Council to take advantage of the OGC savings two years earlier than would otherwise be possible.

Contractor A. offered to upgrade existing Civic MFDs aged over two years old in exchange for changing the current lease agreement to a 5 year contract via the OGC Framework agreement.

Thanks to Harlow Council for this example.

Improved prices achieved from IT and Telecoms procurement

By negotiating contract prices in accordance with the Councils Procedural Rules the authority was able to reduce the price paid for its corporate mobile communications contracts and elements of its IT infrastructure.  Across six small contracts the authority generated savings of £15,000 per annum 

The savings methodology and benchmarking for the efficiency saving is endorsed by the National Audit Office and OGC.

Thank you to Sevenoaks District Council for this example

Electronic access to accounts by taxpayers should reduce queries received by phone

Developing access to council tax and business rate account details through the councils website has improved the service to the customer, by improving access to information.

In turn this releases staff time spent answering phone calls and responding to Emails and Letters for other essential duties, creating a non cashable saving.  Improved collection rates for local tax acts as a quality cross check.

Thank you to Sevenoaks District Council for this example

Provision of website payment facility for Penalty Charge Notices

The website payment facility for parking penalty payments was switched to the system provided by the company supplying the parking enforcement administration system.  The new system provides a more reliable and effective system for online payments than the older in-house system which proved to be problematic. 

The improved quality of service has led to an increase in the number of payments processed electronically (which provides savings on the more costly processing of cash or cheque payments) and allowed staff to concentrate on other duties as opposed to processing payments, calls and enquiries.

Thank you to Sevenoaks District Council for this example

Print Room to take on more external printing

By improving the advertising of the councils internal print room services extra revenue is generated for the council to spend on priority services.

Thank you to Sevenoaks District Council for this example

Long term work placement saves extra staff member

Working with local schools and colleges the council is providing long term work placements for students to gain experience and improve their employment prospects. This enables the council to save a proportion of the cost of employing a full time officer to the IT team

Thank you to Sevenoaks District Council for this example

Change of Internet Service Provider and increase in capacity

The council renegotiated its ISP contract with a new supplier, obtaining increased capacity of 6MB across the councils internet link. 

As well as achieving the increased capacity the new contract price was £2,000 less per annum than the previous contract for less bandwidth. 

This improved procurement allows the council to provide more, new public services electronically and increase the quality of current services.

Thank you to Sevenoaks District Council for this example

Going the extra mile to help homeless people

Homelessness is an area that Kettering Borough Council takes very seriously and as the Regional Homeless Champion for the East Midlands we will go that extra mile to help our customers. 

Recently, a family of nine were forced to leave their home for fear of violence, and had presented themselves as homeless to our Customer Service Centre. Despite not having any suitable accommodation for the family, we were able to utilise our contacts in the neighbouring Boroughs and have the family driven to the nearest suitable accommodation.  

For more information relating to Kettering Borough Council’s involvement in Housing Options Trailblazers, please refer to our website: http://www.kettering.gov.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=1062

Thanks for this example (Kettering Borough Council material is reproduced with the permission of Kettering Borough Council)

Recycling boxes - with wheels!

In 2004 we introduced a recycling scheme to Kettering Borough supplying our residents with different colour boxes and bins. The majority of our customers found the new boxes easy to manage however that was not the case for everyone. Our front line staff identified that elderly and less able residents wished to participate in the scheme but were struggling to move their boxes to the kerbside for collection. Often these residents still wanted to retain their independence and did not require a ‘fetch and return service’.  

As a result of listening to our customers and our front line staff we identified a need for adaptable recycling boxes.  We came up with the simple but effective idea of adding wheels and a rope handle to the boxes, so they could be used in a similar way to a suitcase. This improvement was quick, low cost to the Council but high benefit to our residents. It also ensured we were meeting the needs of a larger proportion of our residents and allowing more people the opportunity of participating in our award winning scheme. 

For more information relating to this project, please refer to our website: 


Thanks for this example (Kettering Borough Council material is reproduced with the permission of Kettering Borough Council)

Kettering tackles rubbish on A14

Previously, we received complaints from our residents about the amount of litter along the A14, specifically the lay-by areas. There were limited refuse facilities available in the lay-bys, some having none at all, and Kettering Borough Council’s Environmental Care Team litter picked twice yearly along the main road. 

As a result of this feedback we recently installed additional litter bins and visible signage to all our lay-bys on the A14 to encourage people to dispose of their litter responsibly. We now have four bins in each of the ten lay-bys that we are responsible for and these are emptied three times a week. It has been an instant success with substantially less litter in the lay-by areas and we are receiving far fewer complaints. Our Environmental Care Team will also continue to litter pick the area twice yearly. On the back of this success we are installing recycling facilities in two of our lay-bys as a trial with the hope that this will be rolled out to all of our lay-bys in due course. 

Thanks for this example (Kettering Borough Council material is reproduced with the permission of Kettering Borough Council)

Poetry in motion

Kettering Borough Council we are committed to operating in an efficient and cost effective way. One example of this is fitting motion sensors onto the lights in areas of the building that are not in constant use ie, toilets and photocopying rooms.  The sensors automatically turn out the lights when the rooms are not in use and thereby help reduce the amount of electricity the Council utilises, cutting costs and our carbon footprint.

Thanks for this example (Kettering Borough Council material is reproduced with the permission of Kettering Borough Council)

21 April 2009

Rationalising the subscriptions

The council recently reviewed its various subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and periodicals.  This has saved around £10,000 through rationalisation and increased use of the internet.

Thank you to Guildford Borough Council for this example.

20 April 2009

Staff Suggestion Scheme

Coventry City Council has a suggestion scheme where staff can submit their ideas for providing more efficient and value for money services.  The scheme is called My idea and staff can e-mail or write in with their suggestions, which are then considered by members of the Management Board.  Since it started lots of staff have made suggestions, some have or are being currently implemented including: 

  • The expense of buying bottled water for water coolers (see below)
  • Look at how we use and allocate mobile phones across the Council (also see below)
  • Paper recycling collections – these now carried out by the Council's City Services recycling team instead of paying an external contractor
  • Payslips and insight, the staff magazine, should be sent out electronically – this is being implemented over the next few months 

Thank you to Coventry City Council for this description of their scheme - please contact them for any updates.

New meeting and venue policy

The idea: A new meeting and venue policy has been approved by Management Board to ensure that everyone in the Council makes the best use of our existing facilities. Staff are being encouraged to check if internal venues that meet their needs are available before looking at venues outside the Council.

The policy also covers the use of equipment at venues and catering. In future lunch should not be provided for half day events, with a light lunch (sandwiches and fruit) only for full day events or lunch time meetings.

The next stage of this work will see the development of a central booking system, so that if people have to be moved from a room if it’s needed for a more urgent meeting a substitute will be found for them.

What was learnt? The policy is just being introduced across the organisation so learning is not available at this time..

Thank you to Coventry City Council for this example - please contact them for any updates.

New mobile phone policy

The idea: A new council policy for the use of mobile computing devices is being introduced to save money and make sure that the people who really need the technology get the right equipment to do their jobs.  A new mobile contract is also being negotiated to help the Council achieve better value for money.

Currently there are no guidelines for managers when deciding whether employees should have mobile phones, BlackBerrys and so on, and because the Council’s current contract with T-Mobile includes free phone line rental, there’s been little incentive to limit the number of people being given mobile phones.

This means there are around 1,160 mobile phones with call charges of less than £5 a month. If these mobiles are taken out of use it will save the Council around £70,000 a year. A similar approach for BlackBerry users will save around £60,000.

Further savings will be made by ending the personal use of works mobile phones except in an emergency. Until now employees have had to work out the cost of any personal calls when they get their monthly bill and then pay the Council by cheque or cash. Because this is usually just a few pounds for most people, the cost of administering the system is high compared to the benefits.

Applying the new policy will be a challenge; mobile users will need to complete a form outlining why they need to keep a works mobile or BlackBerry on the go, and some teams will need to develop a system of sharing office mobile phones for occasional users.

What was learnt? The policy is just being introduced across the organisation so learning is not available at this time.

Thank you to Coventry City Council for this example - please contact them for any updates.

Bottled water

The idea One of our employees suggested we stop buying bottled water.  Thanks to the suggestion there is now a pilot underway in one of the council's buildings where bottled water machines have been removed and taps, where they don't exist, are being installed  

How did this innovation come about? One of our employees suggested it to our value for money ideas scheme – my idea. 

What was learnt? This is currently a pilot, which if successful we hope to roll out to the rest of the Council.   This will potentially save £7,500 a year in the Council House but if rolled out across the Council could save up to £84,000.

Thank you to Coventry City Council for this example - please contact them for any updates.

Suggestion regarding testing of Lifeline equipment

Instead of officers carrying out visits to customers using Lifeline equipment purely in order to check that the equipment was working, telephone testing was suggested.  

Of course, in view of the vulnerable nature of many of these customers, this suggestion would not be feasible or desirable in certain cases, but where appropriate, remote testing will take place, thus saving officer time.  

Thanks for this example

Suggestion regarding Council Direct Debit changes

An award was made to an officer for his suggestion that changes to benefits for Council tenants paying by Direct Debit should be generated by an electronic report.  

This suggestion was made by someone from outside the relevant department, who realised that such a report could save much staff time.  The idea has been successfully implemented.  

Thanks for this example

Pending in the Vale of White Horse

Two further examples of pending cost saving measures that are yet to be implemented are: 

  1. The introduction of annualised hours at Council run halls.  This will reduce overtime by allowing staff to take back hours over in quieter times without a cost to the facility.
  2. The Introduction of a shared email and diary management system between the Vale of White Horse District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council.  A shared management team has been appointed across these two councils as a major cost saving measure and it is envisaged that cost savings can also be made by operating a single email system across both authorities
Thanks for these examples.

Infra Red Light Switches.

Idea: Introduce Infra Red Light Switches in communal rooms such as kitchen areas at head office location.

Results: Savings on utility bills and equipment costs i.e. light bulbs.

Leadership: Recommendation made by Principal Energy Officer as part of the Carbon Management Programme and was implemented by Properties and Estates Department as the most efficient way to light irregularly used rooms.

Learning: A long term solution with ongoing savings can outweigh the negative effects of one off expenditure.

Contact: Peter Dela – Principal Engineer - peter.dela@whitehorsedc.gov.uk

Thanks for this example

Carbon Management Programme

Idea: The Carbon Management Programme sets out how the Council can meet a proposed commitment to reduce carbon emissions from its operations by 20% by 2012.

Results: This is ongoing but savings will be realised within a year and further savings year on year.

Leadership: Report was made to Council Executive outlining proposals by Lead Officers and was welcomed by Council Executive as, along with securing significant emissions reductions, the plan also has clear medium term financial benefits.

Learning: A long term plan that can yield year or year savings can be more financially beneficial than a one off saving made from a quick fix solution.

Contact: Mark Saunders – Principal Energy Officer - mark.saunders@whitehorsedc.gov.uk  

Thanks for this example

The ‘Can you look after a plant?’ Scheme

To save money staff were asked to volunteer to look after the plants in their office by watering them every two weeks. This was introduced in all the offices of the Civic Centre (which is the council’s central offices).

In offices where volunteers were not found the plants would be relocated to offices where there were volunteers. Once volunteers were in place the contract with the external contractor who used to water the plants will be terminated.

(This scheme has just been introduced and we are currently at the stage of recruiting volunteers). The expected results are that the council will save the cost of the external contractor.

The idea is free to implement and is a means of making a small but ongoing financial saving.

Thanks for this example

16 April 2009

Reviewing spends corporately rather than by service level

Idea: To review spend on a wider basis than just one service area.

Results: Enabled savings of approx £10K to be made.  As this was previously distributed across many areas.  Centralising made the small under spends in many areas to be converted into a larger overall saving.  Once done in one area this expanded to other scenarios. 

Leadership: Once one area had been done successfully it showed it could be done easily.  Needs backing from all service areas to happen effectively.  

Learning: Simple ideas can lead to effective savings. 

Contact: Nigel Glossop, Head of IT and Business Improvement, South Derbyshire District Council Nigel.Glossop@south-derbys.gov.uk  Tel 01283 595703 

Thank you to Nigel and South Derbyshire District Council for this example

Kent Year of Innovation

Thanks to Kent County Council for making me aware of their many innovation initiaves that they have underway. Further information is available at:

Which is well worth a browse. They also publish a 'catalogue of innovations' which is full of useful ideas:

What I get excited about...

... is when people at all levels of an organisation are thinking to themselves 

"let's not do things the same as yesterday - le's try something different - that might just make more of a difference"

For me this indicates a level of professionalism, a concern for the public (both as service users and taxpayers) and pride in one's work that thrills me. For many people - and I include myself - work is very important part of my life (along with family, friends, community etc, of course). If this work is humdrum & repetitive, without any change or improvement, I think this damages us as a whole. 

I think we are all responsible for doing what we can to create, to innovate, to improve what we do - because not only is this better for the people we serve - it is also better for us. And if we have a role as a manager / leader - then this responsibility extends to how develop work places that foster this sense of improvement. We owe this to those whom we work for and with.


Waste sacks

Idea: Reduced the number of clear and black sacks sent out when a bin has been missed

Results: Difficult to give actual cashable savings!       

Leadership: Team leader identified too many sacks were being sent out

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for this example

Concessionary fare scheme #2

Idea: Reduction in venues and cancellation of smaller venues, offering postal option

Results: Saved £750 in 07/08 year     

Leadership: Team leader continually looking for ways to streamline this process

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for this example

Concessionary fare scheme

Idea: Changes to administration of this scheme by: Reviewing forms required.  Resourcing venues  as per volume of customers expected. Using staff from across Business Unit instead of temps.

Results: Saved £10,000 during 07/08 year     

Leadership: Team leader continually looking for ways to streamline this process

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for these examples

Visitors signing-in book

Idea: In-house production of new visitor signing sheets and badges

Results: Saved £1,262.76 during 08/09 year  

Leadership: Team leader streamlined the process

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for this example

Plastic travel tokens - recycling

Idea: Recycling plastic travel tokens

Results: Savings £3,184 during 08/09 year    

Leadership: Team leader investigated ways to recycle

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for this example

Housing form improvement - shorter & quicker to complete

Idea: Reworking housing application form questions by the design team reduced number of A4 pages from 37 to 23, making form lighter, using less paper and therefore cheaper to post. 

Results: Savings £1,225         

Leadership: Design team always looks at forms to try and redesign making a savings

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for this example

Government leaflet - reduced pages

Idea: Reworking the design of a leaflet to be mailed to all business rate payers from 3 A4 pages to just 2 saved £42.00 in printing.  Investigation Royal Mail Volume discount mailing saved a further £385 on mailing costs 

Results: Saving of £427          

Leadership: Team leader/staff always looking for ways to reduce paper usage

Thanks to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for this example

Rationalising council publications

Camden Council cut expenditure on Council publications by reducing them in number and creating a more useful and cheaper residents magazine

"Your Camden"


Thanks for this example from Camden Council

Hot water in Camden

Camden’s new sports centre is being built to a very good sustainability standard. The building will be more eco-friendly and much cheaper to run with natural ventilation and water for the pools coming from two existing bore-holes: 


Thanks for this example from Camden Council

Tackling fraud

New Housing Investigation team reveals fraudulent right-to-buy applications and subletting, saving the Council over £1 million in one year


Thanks for this example from Camden Council

Joint tendering

Improvements in the Council’s IT infrastructure provided an opportunity to save money by tendering for a new joint contract for the benefits and revenue service


Thanks for this example from Camden Council

Camden and Islington Councils combine their vehicle pounds:


Thanks for this example from Camden Council

15 April 2009

Same quantity of paper - but cheaper!

Headed stationery was printed in five colours onto expensive cream paper.  As the planning department used large quantities of headed paper, agreement was obtained to use a cheaper style of stationery, using a monochrome logo and white paper.  This practice was extended to the whole Council in a recent review of corporate branding.  

Thanks for this example

Less paper - more 'lightbulbs'!

The lean systems review involved the redesign of back office processes.  These are recorded on large sheets of paper for clarity in discussions.  Instead of writing on the large sheets, the steps in the process are recorded on “Post-it” notes and stuck onto the sheets.  During discussions, the notes can be removed and re-arranged easily on the sheets to see the effect of the re-design.  This potentially saves wastage of the large, expensive sheets of paper.

Thanks for this example

Less paper - more light!

The use of a digital overhead projector at Planning Committee meetings saves the Council and the public the cost of making extra copies to circulate to Members around the table.

Thanks for this example

Sustainability & efficiency in North Norfolk

  • Staff energy saving campaign to save electricity and reduce our electricity bills – staff were asked to switch off monitors when going to meetings/lunch, intelli-panels were installed to ensure that when PCs are switched off at the end of the day all peripherals are also turned off, and timer plugs are used on other appliances e.g. printers to ensure they are turned off at evenings and weekends.
  • A sustainable procurement policy has been adopted to ensure that whole life costs rather than just the initial capital cost is used to judge value for money when procuring goods and services. 
  • Members collect their post rather than mailing it out.
  • Emails are sent to Parish Councils where possible, rather than posting information.

    Many thanks to North Norfolk District Council for these ideas.

    14 April 2009

    Add your ideas / thoughts / suggestions here!

    Everynow and then I will put post like this in - so that you can add your idea directly. Posting is open on this blog - you do not need to register. You can do contribute anonymously or with attribution. 


    Reports that are actually books

    Sometimes when people respond to my emails enquiring about small creative ideas, they refer me to various documents published on the interweb.  I always take a look and usually (though to be fair not always) I end up being disappointed. 


    I guess it is when I see the digits in the pdf file box which shows the number of pages. If this number goes beyond 6, I sigh, have a quick scroll to see if anything leaps out. It usually does not. Instead - there are pages of words and tables and figures (usually large ones of course!) which leave me cold.

    Genuinely - I wonder who reads these documents? Does anyone really read them from end to end apart from the original author, plus maybe his/her boss and an elected member with rather too much time on her/his hands? 

    I wonder who gets to compile these books (for that is what they are).  I fear that we have far too many 'strutegies' and not enough 'stractegies' when it comes to improving the public services. By strutegy - I mean the kind of long (and often glossy) document that looks great and is praded proudly around, but where most of the effort has been spent on talking with the printers. On the other hand there are the stractegies which live in activity and people doing things - making a difference - using resources more wisely - delivering more to the public. These people don't have the time to write long and detailed reports.

    Moreover, I wonder if these long reports are disempowering? Do they make people think that 'it is all been done then...' - they don't have to worry about making improvements in their area - the people up there on the '7th floor' have got it all in hand. And even if a frontline person has a small creative idea that would make a difference to the lives of (say) the 20 older people that they go and visit each week, or they have spotted a way to save £15k - then this is just insignificant. The megabucks are being found elsewhere. No one is here to listen to, authorise or acknowledge their ideas. 

    Without doubt the big changes are necessary. But is it correct to say that ordinary everyday improvements are 'business as usual'.  Often they are not - and the big, grand & heftily reported on improvements may be just be smothering the small creative ideas that could also be making a big difference too.

    What do you think?

    Sustainable Refreshment

    The idea was to stop using plastic cups with the drinking water machines in staff kitchenettes and use glasses/mugs instead 

    The result is both an environmental saving to reduce the use of plastic and a financial saving.   The financial savings will depend upon the number of plastic cups being used and how much are being paid for them - in our case we believe there will be a saving of £25 per 1000 cups not used. 

    Leadership: The idea came from staff sitting on a cross departmental group called the Culture Change Group, and was taken forward with the leadership of the Facilities Officer who has responsibility for the offices.

    Learning: The idea reinforced our belief that good examples come from listening and empowering staff to express suggestions for improvement.

    Thanks for this example.

    Multi-functional savings

    Blaby District Council have put into place 12 multifunctional devices. These are known as MFD’s. An MFD is in essence what you would normally consider to be a photocopier (upgraded) so that it can be used as a printer and connected to the network. It allows employees to print black and white. The MFD’s are located at various points in the building so that large groups of employees have access to the same MFD. 

    The initiative behind this is to remove all of the local network printers in individual offices and encourage the staff to either: 

    a) Print less or;

    b) Use the MFD. 

    The MFD’s are only just being rolled out across the Council but it is likely that the roll out will make us more efficient, due to a reduction in toner costs and the fact that it is cheaper to print an MFD than a local network printer. In addition the new initiative requires less maintenance.

    Thanks for this example.

    More improvements from Wellingborough

    • I have been under a trial of new brushes for my sweeper.  These are slightly more expensive but last twice as long saving on cost. 
    • With the implementation of Agresso the need to print copy invoices should be dramatically reduced, as all invoices can be viewed on screen, will also save time for Accountants as they will no longer need to come to payments to look in files. 
    • Finedon Bowling Green being fitted with an automatic water system saving time and money. 
    • New HR/Payroll system to reduce duplication of paper/electronic records and duplication across the two service areas as well as providing cost effective way of users maintaining information. 
    • Introduction of more on-line facilities - e.g online recruitment applications/elections.
    Thanks to the Borough Council of Wellingborough for these examples

    Amenity Services

    Idea: Vehicle tracking in RCV's (Refuse Collection vehicle)

    Results: Significant saving in fuel due to decrease in 'idling' time

    Leadership: Examination of fuel costs and need to source savings

    Learning: Look to large areas of spend to find savings

    Thanks to the Borough Council of Wellingborough for this example

    Eco homes

    Eco homes at Harrold Road, Bozeat, Wellingborough 

    This small development of 7 affordable homes is being built on an exception site on land formerly owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.  The site is being developed by Northants Rural Housing Association, in conjunction with the Parish Council, in response to a housing needs survey undertaken in the village of Bozeat. 

    Homes and Communities Agency funding has been secured for the project, together with an additional £70,000 from the Borough Council of Wellingborough to enable the scheme to reach Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.  This means that additional eco measures have been included in the development, such as extra insulation and air source heat pumps, which will not only reduce the carbon footprint and CO2 emissions of the houses but also reduce resident’s fuel bills. 

    The Housing Strategy Team had identified a need for a pot of money which could be used to provide 'extras' on affordable housing schemes such as additional eco measures, building in stone in villages and conservation areas, retaining historical features etc.  This was agreed by the Council's Resources Committee and there is now a rolling programme of funds for these items.  Registered Social Landlords are encouraged to access this pot of money for small scale developments where a limited amount of money can make a substantial difference to the scheme produced.

    Thanks to the Borough Council of Wellingborough for this example

    Revenue services: Improving postage efficiency

    Idea: Use TNT for Council Tax billing postage

    Results: Bills were delivered with equal efficiency to Royal Mail and a Gershon saving of approx £3,800 was achieved.

    Leadership: Office practice improvement session.

    Learning: To keep questioning established procedures.

    Thanks to the Borough Council of Wellingborough for this example

    Inter-generational benefits

    Some of the inter-generational work, such as Windsor Boys School volunteers teaching older people in the day centres how to use mobile phones, computers etc are quite good as examples of social support and bridging the generation gap

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    Pool car savings

    Instead of Borough employees claiming expenses for using their own cars on business. The council  has a few Pool Cars that can be booked for visits, thus reducing costs and encouraging staff to travel together.

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    Preventing falls - with volunteers

    The Falls Project using older volunteers as peer mentors for health promotion messages, again increasing effectiveness of the message and not being an expensive resource.  

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    Combining services - safety & consultation

    The first is the linking with the Safe at Home / Hotstreets project.  

    As the fire service were checking the home fire risk anyway, it was the ideal opportunity to expand their role and get more information on a range of services that they were being asked about on a regular basis, reaching more people at very little extra resource.

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    WC's without the W

    We have installed waterless urinals in a number of low use toilets. 

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    Let a 1000 flowers bloom - some more!

    We offer free daffodil bulbs to community groups , this encourages a sense of community  ownership of the area , the bulbs are planted where local people want them planted and saves money on planting the bulbs

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    FoI - process improvement

    Due to effective process control 100% of Freedom Of Information requests have been processed with the 20 working day timeframe.

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    Bite sized training

    Instead of having external training we now hold internal bite size training events for staff, that are filmed and put on the internal internet site so that staff can view at any time.

    Thanks to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for this example

    Tourist Information Centre staffing

    The Area Office now  provides Tourist Information Services. Now both services can be provided by the same office it saves the cost of employing a Tourist Information Centre assistant during the busy summer period.

    Saving £9,900 

    Thanks for this example

    Mystery Shopping collaboration

    An arrangement has been made with a neighbouring authority to mystery shop the other authority’s services.  Previously both authorities employed external companies to carry out this service but by now providing this service for each other saves the cost of employing the external company.

    Saving £5,599 

    Thanks for this example.

    (I wonder what more could be done along similar lines....)

    Aptitude tests done inhouse

    Aptitude tests for recruitment are now carried in house. These were  previously undertaken by external companies at a cost of £250 per session. Personnel staff have been trained to provide the tests saving the costs of employing external companies to do the tests on our behalf.

    Saving: £4,500 

    Thanks for this example

    New microphones in committee rooms

    A saving of staff time has been made as the result of a new microphone system that has been installed in the committee rooms. Previously the caretakers spent time putting out the microphones each time a meeting was taking place and now the new system takes less time to get ready.

    Saving £3,600 (non-cashable) 

    Thanks for this example

    Purchase of hand dryers

    Hand dryers in the staff toilets have now been purchased outright saving the rental payments and maintenance charges that were previously paid on them. It is more cost effective to pay for servicing and any maintenance when it is required .

    Saving £3,105 

    Thanks for this example

    Closure of chemical store at Council Contract Services.

    The Chemical store that was provided by the Contract Services Department has been closed so the licence that was required for the store has now been cancelled achieving a saving 

    The Chemical disposal service was only used very occasionally and it is cheaper to pay external companies to dispose of the chemicals and not having to pay the licence fee.

    Saving £3,000 

    Thanks for this example

    Internal Training Courses

    Some staff training courses which were previously run by external providers are now carried out internally using the existing skills and training of the personnel staff  It was more efficient to train up one or two members of staff to provide training than to run all the courses with external trainers.

    Saving £7,500 

    Thanks for this example

    Allpay cards not automatically issued

    The procedures for issuing Allpay cards to Council Tax payers and Business ratepayers has been changed so that cards are not automatically replaced or issued now. When a person is registered for Council Tax or Business rates an Allpay payment card is not issued automatically issued as it was in the past, and cards are only now issued upon request.


    Thanks for this example


    St Edmundsbury Borough Council have a process called "Dynamic Review – Innovation, Value and Enterprise" which they describe as

    "Approach to budgeting: The commitment given to the public that Council Tax rises should be kept to a minimum, but service standards and levels be maintained or improved, led to the 2005 adoption of the DR-IVE (Dynamic Review – Innovation, Value and Enterprise) process to identify efficiency savings. The council is now in the fifth year of this approach to budgeting. The approach is supported by a councillor led process"

    Thanks to St Edmundsbury Borough Council for these links.

    Collaboration on surveys

    The Council is required to undertake a survey of local residents every two years called the Place Survey. The Place Survey is a national survey set by Government, with a set of questions which all Councils have to ask. Dartford therefore set up a consortium of six Kent Councils, which obtained a 10% discount from the supplier saving the Council £1,200 

    Thanks to Dartford Council for this example

    Efficiency Review of Cemetery Services

    Idea: The service as a whole was subject to the Efficiency Review process however it was evident that the service had to respond to the requirements of the HSE Memorial Safety Inspection scheme within existing resources. 

    Results: As a newly commissioned piece of work robust process were designed to ensure compliance with HSE requirements.

    The review of the current Cemeteries provision identified that the procurement of a software application to record and manage administrative tasks would release 12 hours per week, from the existing Cemeteries Officer to be utilised to support the physical inspection process.

    During the current economic downturn additional assistance to complete the inspection process has been secured in the form of Officer time and support by our Building Control service.  14 officer hours have been made available, per week, to provide this support.

    The inspection process is yet to commence. 

    Leadership: The Parks & Open spaces team identified the need for additional capacity to fulfil the MSI programme as part of the Efficiency review process.

    Learning: We learnt that staff have skills which are transferrable and can be utilised across the organisation. 

    Further information: Businessefficiency@fenland.gov.uk

    Thanks for this example.

    Efficiency Review of Democratic Services

    Idea: The service as a whole was reviewed however staff identified that the majority of information circulated to elected members was in the form of hard copy documents. They therefore specifically asked the Business Efficiency Team to devise more efficient effect ways for circulating information. 

    Results: The result was a redesign of processes for sharing information with elected members including implementing a member hotline, introducing a dedicated IT trainer for elected members therefore enabling documents and information to be circulated electronically, ensuring the timely receipt of key data. 

    All calls from elected members requiring information were filtered through a central group of staff, rather than being received via diverse services with differing published response timescales. These centralised staff had undergone specific training and had a great understanding of the Council and its functions. In addition all enquiries are logged on a central system and any resulting frequently asked questions are identified and published on the intranet therefore diversifying the channels for members to access information whilst also reducing the volume of potential avoidable contacts. 

    The introduction of the dedicated IT trainer for elected members has helped to ensure that all members have access to electronic information and are familiar with the processes for access information in this manner. 

    The financial results are still being measured however we set a target of 30% cashable savings in relation to a reduction in printing and paper. 

    We also identified in the region of 8 staff hours could be saved, via centralising the members’ hotline, per month. 

    Leadership: The Democratic Services staff identified the requirement for improvements to sharing information via the initial Efficiency Review workshop. 

    Learning: We learnt that staff are extremely keen to try new ideas and new ways of working when the benefits are clear and explicit. 

    Further information: Businessefficiency@fenland.gov.uk

    Thanks for this example

    Leisure Services withdrawal of cheque payments

    Idea: The three Leisure Centre sites across the District Council withdrew the ability of customers to pay for membership or classes via cheque payments and instead more widely publicised the ability to pay on line or via direct debits. The later initiatives were introduced as a direct result of customer feedback. 

    Results: The results to date have been cashable savings in the region of £1,500 saved from a reduction in staff processes time, therefore not only has a cashable saving been achieved but processes are smarter and better reflect customers needs and requirements.

    Leadership: Service staff identified this initiative as a result of analysing customer feedback and informal comments.

    Learning: Providing a more efficient way of handling payments resulted in higher customer satisfaction levels.  Through providing value for money and tailoring services to customer requirements we found that customer experience was improved.  This is further endorsed by all three of our leisure centres being Quest accredited – recognition of our continuous improvement in service delivery and standards.  

    Further information: Businessefficiency@fenland.gov.uk

    Thanks for this example.

    10 April 2009

    Providing Choice in Adult Social Care

    Bexley Council is committed to moving towards self-directed support, providing service users with greater choice and control.These principles have been recently applied to the Council’s Meals on Wheels Service.The in-house service has been discontinued and private suppliers now provide high quality meals to residents. These meals are then heated by service users or carers. Service users enjoy a greater choice of meals while the Council has benefited from an ongoing saving of £100,000 each year.

    One client, Mrs JoanWall, who is registered blind, says: “The old service was good but I think the new one is even better because I can choose at short notice what I want to eat.The carer is very pleasant and she sits and chats with me whilst the meal is being heated. “When its ready, she tells me where the food is on the plate.This is really helpful as I then know what I am putting in my mouth and I enjoy my meal more.”

    An example of the improvements at Bexley - thanks for this example.

    VfM in Bexley

    Throughout the last year the London Borough of Bexley continued its finance-led Value for Money (VfM) Programme.The programme comprises a number of ambitious projects which have a dual purpose. 

    1. To contain Council Tax rises
    2. To provide high performing, customer focussed services.

    The programme places great emphasis on ensuring that service delivery standards are not compromised to achieve savings. In fact where possible, through back office re-engineering and pushing resources towards the front line, many services have actually improved. Partnership working has always been high on Bexley’s agenda and work on the Value for Money programme is no exception. For a number of projects within the Value for Money Programme, Bexley has benefited from a Performance Partnership with Northgate Kendric Ash where council officers work together with Northgate Kendric Ash Managers to deliver significant financial efficiencies whilst driving improvements in service delivery for residents. During 2007/08 the partnership delivered savings of £1.63 million and it is expected to deliver £2 million per annum ongoing. The VfM programme is supported by a strong governance structure.

    Further information: Mike.ellsmore@bexley.gov.uk

    Thanks for this - a few post to follow with examples.