North Yorkshire Council

Selby Garden Waste 

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

In April 2023, the one unitary council, five district and two borough councils in North Yorkshire were brought together to create a single unitary authority. Each authority had previously been operating as an independent organisation, with custom policies, charging models and terms and conditions for every service they provided. This included the waste collection services, which were managed locally by the district and borough councils. The garden waste service was a chargeable service for six of the seven of the legacy district and borough councils. A decision was made by members in January 2023 that a charge should be introduced to the Selby area, the only not currently charging for this service, in order to create an equitable service across the new unitary authority, and to increase revenue which would contribute to the enormous savings target bestowed upon the council as part of the re-organisation.

A public consultation ran from Monday 20 February to Monday 3 April to gather resident views on the charging model in Selby. 3580 responses were received and 95% said they currently used the council’s garden waste service. Of those who use the service, 22% said they would continue to following the introduction of a subscription-based service. A further 18% said they didn’t know. The council’s executive board approved the charging model June 2023, and so a decision was made to start operating the chargeable service in Selby from August 2023, at a lower, pro-rata charge as the scheme would only run until December 2023.

The Selby waste service had worked with their colleagues at the other local areas to understand how the service worked in their areas, and established we were looking at an approximate 20% of household take up based on consultation responses and take up rates in other areas, and we were looking at a digital take up rate of 60%. This meant, that of the 40,000 households in Selby, we were anticipating that 8,000 properties would subscribe, and that we were looking at just under 5,000 people accessing the service online, with over 3000 phone calls anticipated at the contact centre.

So our aim was simple; to create a seamless customer journey to allow the residents of Selby to access the new chargeable service, ensuring zero impact on the customer’s garden waste delivery. The NYC scheme was launched in mid-July to 40,000 eligible households had four clear objectives:
• Design decisions were user centred and data driven to ensure best possible outcomes for our customers
• Disruption to the customer services and back-end teams were kept to an absolute minimum
• The Income opportunity was maximised to ensure alignment with the corporate saving target
• Customer complaints because of this change to the service were kept to a minimum despite a huge change to the service

We developed various processes within a two-week period to help us achieve our objectives. These included the development of a secure digital form, the design and launch of a new paper to digital capability via a secure, personalised QR code for every customer and the development of the authority’s first harmonised customer service team, who accessed the first harmonised customer agent form. Our citizen focused benefit of standing up the first harmonised NYC form were soon realised when, within two weeks of launching the service, and on the day we delivered the last letter drop of 14,000 letters, we met our initial target of reaching 20% of our eligible citizens and had generated £242,730. We have since almost trebled the revenue target. The initial online take-up target of 60% was smashed by 26%, with 37% of customers accessing the online channel via their personalised QR code.

What are the key achievements?

NYC identified and sent letters to 40,340 eligible households in July 2023. The take up for the service was expected to be low for the following reasons:
• We were asking customers to pay for a service they had previously been receiving free of charge for years
• We were asking them to do so at the end of the ‘growing season’
• The public consultation suggested a low take up rate, with only 22% of respondents confirming they would pay for the service

The impact on the citizen can be measured by the take up rate of 48%, which is the highest take up rate for the garden waste service across the whole of North Yorkshire. This is despite the low estimates and the reasons for those. The service met their overall target within 2 weeks, and we have since exceeded the target by two and a half times. This scheme has generated an income for the authority of £554,937, which is an additional £312,243 against the original savings target. The digital take up has also far exceeded the initial target of 60%, with 86% of customers accessing the journey digitally. 37% of those customers accessed the service via the personalised QR code which was utilise for the first time to encourage paper to digital customer behaviour.

Customers unable to access online services, due to accessibility or inclusivity reasons, had the option to call our contact centre to pay for the garden waste service. Their journey required no need to provide an email address and allowed the customer to continue their journey non-digitally, with a confirmation letter and printed terms and conditions being sent to their home address within the same time frame as a customer accessing the service digitally would.

How Innovative is your initiative?

• We challenged service assumptions and targets, knowing that if our user centred design principles were applied correctly, we could exceed those.
• We utilised personalised QR codes to promote paper to digital behaviour, which has now been documented within the service design catalogue and will now be pushed out through the organisation.
• We created a fully automated end to end service, requiring no back end team intervention, which fed into two fulfilment systems and a payment system, all of which sat within different networks due to the re-organisation; setting new the income management capability for the organisation
• We created an equitable non-digital form for use by our contact centre and all district and borough partners using a low code solution which integrated with our CRM in the same way the digital solution did. This allowed us to follow the same back-end process and provide a consistent, fully accessible service regardless of the customer’s channel into the service. 

What are the key learning points?

The key learnings from the project were that we were able to develop new patterns of engagement including paper-to-digital routes using new patterns for driving customer behaviour. We also learned that we were able to stand up a whole new service with an integrated end-to –end back-end fulfilment system within two weeks by utilising existing patterns and capabilities for the majority of the process in parallel to developing complex new capabilities. The takeaway success story from the process is we exceeded expectations of the numbers of households that have engaged with service, and importantly the cost to the council of standing that service up. All components of this service are now replicable, including the comms approach, contact centre agent journeys and integration with the fulfilment and payments systems. The approach we adopted for the Selby garden waste process has now been rolled out to all seven North Yorkshire localities, with the aim of repeating the success of the scheme across the board; this should Increase the digital take up rate of 69% to 86%; this is a significant saving to the authority in light of 130,000 eligible households! 

Additional Comments

There are 2 notable elements for this scheme that make us believe it’s an award contender. Firstly, the pace of standing up and effective subscription service of which was so successful we brought in over £0.5million, in just over a month. But also, creating a process that has set the stall for future harmonised services. Specifically, we have proven we can create seamless customer journeys despite inheriting a complex fulfilment process of up to seven fulfilment processes per service.