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Channel shift is green-lit at North Kesteven District Council

Guest blog by Karey Barnshaw, customer engagement manager at North Kesteven District Council, who describes how it is driving online channel shift to deliver more efficient services to residents.

Although it’s positioned as a small, rural local authority, North Kesteven District Council operates across a large area, making the delivery of popular services to residents quite challenging. When central Government withdrew its funding for garden waste collection, we wanted the service to remain available to residents, but had to find an alternative way of funding it.

In late 2012, the council proposed an opt-in green waste collection service for which residents could register from the end of February 2013. In order to encourage sign-up, we knew we had to make this service as accessible and efficient as possible for residents. We decided that, in addition to traditional phone-based registration, we would offer residents the option to register and pay for the service online, using an intelligent e-form.

For this, the council needed a suitable e-forms solution that could be easily used by residents across a range of PCs, tablets and smartphones. The solution also needed to integrate with our various back-office systems, including payments processing, environmental services and property systems. We had already seen demonstrations of Firmstep’s software, and successful deployments amongst neighbouring councils prompted us to implement a solution using its AchieveForms solution in January 2013.

Beating expectations

In the space of four weeks, North Kesteven District Council was able to procure, design, develop and implement an online form capability with AchieveForms, allowing us to launch the new garden waste collection service in time for our go-live target date. The immediate response from local residents was impressive, far exceeding our expectations. In just 10 weeks following its launch at the end of February 2013, 25,000 households – over half of those served by the local authority – had signed up and paid the £25 annual fee for the garden waste service, generating over £600,000 in service revenue for the council.

Furthermore, over 50% of the 25,000 applications were submitted online, reducing the need for the council to recruit additional staff to process subscriptions. Furthermore, the council found that due to the responsive nature of the e-forms, almost 30% of those who signed up online did so from a mobile device, showing the importance to councils of having self-service channels that work on smartphones and tablets as well as conventional PCs. The high online take-up also meant that for customers who preferred to register via telephone, enquiries were dealt with far more efficiently.

Public demand

Prior to the launch of the online application and payment process for subscription to the new green waste collection service, there were concerns over the uptake and use of an online application option, as the district has an older demographic that has traditionally used face-to-face and telephone services to interact with the council.

For me, in my role as customer engagement manager, the high number of customers signing up to the service online has enabled me to prove to council members and offices that there is a desire from residents to use online services. It provided us with the perfect opportunity to show that if we offered good, purpose-fit forms then people will use them, and they will use them well.

North Kesteven District Council’s Garden Waste Collection scheme is now one of our most popular services, with 53% of district residents having taken up the service to date. For me and my team, having the right software available has been a critical factor in the success of the project. The e-forms solution has enabled us to deliver the service in a cost-effective way for the council while offering customers a choice of different access methods; the savings we made by not having to employ additional staff more than covered the cost of the e-forms solution in the first instance.

Looking ahead

This successful deployment has also encouraged the council to enhance operations in several key areas. The customer engagement team is currently developing an access strategy, part of which will focus on overall channel shift. As demonstrated by the success of our garden waste collection scheme, we have been able to migrate services online in a short space of time. Building on this, we are now looking to expand our online offering with the introduction of a self service portal, which will enable local residents to access personalised services through a single online account.

Our success in driving channel shift has generated a lot of interest, opening up opportunities such as joint procurement schemes with neighbouring councils. The success of our Garden Waste Collection scheme proves that effective channel shift is attainable and by pursuing further developments in this area, the council is on-target to be able to cater to public demand for further online access to services.


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