Transforming waste services in Basildon
Building new systems, skills and partnerships to deliver results
Waste services are a critical part of Basildon borough’s infrastructure. For many residents, having their bins collected represents the only council service they regularly use and rely upon, having a significant impact for both the local environment and public perception of the council.
Facing unprecedented challenges including tightening financial operating constraints, significant changes to the UK’s waste and resources strategy, plans for rapid housing growth and volatile market conditions for recyclables and waste disposal, Basildon Council recognised an opportunity to make significant changes. By remodelling services around modern ways of working, proven technology and timely data, they could radically transform to meet the needs and expectations of residents, while delivering better outcomes for years to come.
Our approach combined forward-thinking strategic design with immediate, delivery of new services, all underpinned by capability building and skills transfer to help ensure that the changes we initiated could be both transformational and sustainable.
Developing the strategy
Working with the senior leadership team and service managers, we developed an ambitious and progressive five-year waste strategy for the borough and helped it secure unanimous, cross-party formal approval by local councillors.
Through facilitating sessions with the leadership team, we were able to frame opportunities, implement new governance behaviours and build a shared understanding of what it takes to lead a 21st-century public service. Bringing together situational analysis, policy context, and expertise in organisational change, we helped the council imagine a new future for the service and map out the practical steps to achieve their vision. This included identifying and evaluating technology, planning how to optimise the deployment of crews and collections and embedding new decision-making frameworks to help make smart, timely use of new data.
The strategy outlines a roadmap for the waste service to deliver improved outcomes for residents, staff and the environment whilst reducing operating costs by £2.5 million by building a service based on modern technology and 21st-century ways of working.
– James, Cleaner Neighbourhoods Manager
Thanks to FutureGov we’ve found a clear sense of purpose and a new self belief. We’re going to make massive change happen and we’ve now got the broad support, strategic direction and practical capabilities that requires.
Delivering modern services
At the heart of the new strategy is a shift to more agile, adaptive ways of working, coupled with ensuring that the needs of service users and wider stakeholders are at the centre of the way services are designed and delivered. To demonstrate the potential of this new approach and to build momentum for the wider service transformation, we delivered an exemplar change project with the service focussed on redesigning the response to missed bins.
Missed bin complaints from residents cost the council around £100,000 per year to investigate and resolve, and damage the trust between the council, its residents and staff. Working in a blended team with council staff, we ran a discovery research process to identify the root causes of issues and opportunities for improvement. This included helping the council staff run user research with residents, data and process analysis and best practice design inspiration.
We then took the most promising improvement ideas and ran a series of rapid, low-risk, cost-effective prototypes to test our assumptions and learn how best to make changes. These ranged from trialling new technology with bin crews, to rewriting council policies and developing new online reporting forms for residents.
Once tested, we then refined the ideas and scaled them into a new end to end, joined-up live service to help reduce the number of incidents and ensure that the right cases are resolved quickly and effectively. This approach to change is now being applied to other elements of the waste service.
Building capabilities and confidence
The full benefits of the new strategy and approach can only be realised if staff have the capacity and capability to think and work in new ways. So skills transfer was baked into every aspect of our approach.
A cross-service group of council staff joined a multidisciplinary team of FutureGov designers and consultants to deliver change as part of a single blended team. This allowed council staff to “learn by doing”, bringing together classroom-based theory sessions with practical experience shadowing and supporting FutureGov staff.
This approach of doing change ‘with people’ rather than ‘to people’, helped make sure that staff understood why and how change is happening, and acquired new skills in service design, digital leadership and agile delivery.
We worked in the open, holding regular open door show and tell sessions and collaborated closely with the council communications team to share the experience and lessons of the project across the wider staff of the council. This helped us draw on a diverse range of skills and perspectives whilst also making the Waste Services Transformation a flagship example for the wider council change programmes.
of savings identified in 5 year plan
savings per year though missed bins improvements
councillors on committee approved new waste strategy
Our approach has helped Basildon to succeed where previous efforts have failed, giving Basildon a platform for radical, sustainable change and securing buy-in from the frontline bin crews and service managers through to residents and elected officials.
The successful delivery of the project has helped the service secure significant investment in new technology and workforce training whilst projecting to deliver £2.5 million saving in taxpayer funding over the next 5 years.
The exemplar missed bins service redesign changes are now live and are on track to halve the annual cost of missed bins, saving £50,000 per year, whilst significantly improving resident experience.
– Joseph, Head of Digital
This work was a resounding success, and the work around culture and communication was one of the most important aspects. FG and the waste services team showed how effectively blended teams can work to deliver fast-paced change using agile methodology, within a service environment that might not have been expected to be receptive to these methods. Very impressive.