A 25% budget reduction required a radical rethink. Redesigned from the ‘bottom up’-engaging staff in starting from scratch has delivered a transformed service – a new flexible service that is more responsive to and embedded in it’s communities. We’ve delivered the savings but actually improved the service – the environment is cleaner; public service demand has fallen and importantly we are supporting ex-offenders and young people back into work. Ideas from the frontline drive us forward. We are a trail blazer for the Council Service Transformation programme. This is our story described by the people who lived it.
Nick Sayers’ story – Head of Operations and Greenspace Tameside Council
In these economically difficult times Tameside Council has had to make hard choices, like our residents we have had to cut back and prioritise. For us this has meant innovating and transforming the way we operate to be cheaper and more effective. The Council has cut £57m from its budget since 2011 and seen the central support grant fall by 41%. These aren’t just numbers; the cuts have impacted on our organisation and services for residents. Our job has been to improve, reduce costs and work innovatively and differently. A clean borough remains a top priority for our residents. Our Operations and Greenspace team have transformed radically over the last year, this submission tells the story of our transformation. Our story is driven by delivering excellent street cleansing, grounds maintenance, countryside, arboricultural and horticultural works while taking 42% of costs from the team in the last three years and 25% in the last 12 months while maintaining a productive workforce. We knew that the only way to do this was engaging our workforce to deliver the change. These services are an extremely important indication of how the borough looks and feels in terms of clean streets and creating a welcoming, safe and a well maintained place. We didn’t just cut the service, we ripped up the rule book to start with a blank canvas ensuring that our past didn’t dictate our future. We built a new service by switching to a unique zonal cleaning approach and integrating the service into the Council’s wider crime and worklessness demand reduction agenda. This was possible because we worked hand in hand with staff to transform. Our team became multi-functional enabling us to respond to the challenges we face.
What has changed – the numbers
• Reduced operating costs by 25% in the last year and 42% over the last three years
• Reduced frontline manual staff mostly through voluntary severance from 153 to 94 FTE
• Reduced managers from 17 to 5.5 FTE in line with reduction of depots from 13 to 3
• Developed a multi-functional service consolidating 26 job roles to 6 and reducing the number of shift patterns from 16 to 9
• Still cleaning 715km but to a better quality standard, with estates swept every 28 days
• Continually improving resident satisfaction with the cleanliness of the borough, complaints dropped from 59 to 13 as the service transformed
• Still cutting grass every two weeks and maintaining 23 bowling greens and 45 sports pitches
• Still managing 19 allotment sites (900 plots)
• Still emptying 1,300 street litter bins
• Still inspecting and maintaining 36 playgrounds
• Inspecting and managing 35,000 trees on our highways and greenspace
• Reduced vehicles by 33% from 82 to 55 across street and grounds maintenance
• Additional 20,000 unpaid hours through community payback benefitting the communities
What has changed – the impact
• Embraced and delivered a strategic neighbourhood partnership approach centred around opportunity, engagement, enforcement and education
• Radical and innovative rethink of how the service operates, including ‘blitz clean ups’ and changing public mind set about community involvement and action
• More flexible operating model, increased productivity and engaged multi-functional workforce
• Wider role for the team, working with young and adult ex-offenders, supporting vulnerable adults into work and developing an apprentice scheme
• Ideas from the frontline at the forefront of change through regular focus groups with staff
• Closer working with the community and public sector partners to increase volunteering and self sufficiency
• Developed a ‘can do’ service culture ready to adapt to future changes and is delivering wider public service reform
Union’s story – James McDermott, GMB Regional Organiser
There were some difficult and emotive challenges to address to achieve the budget reduction and still deliver a strong and fit for purpose service. The service achieved this by joint working between ourselves, the managers and the workforce, making sure we were all represented at mass briefings, one to ones and teams briefings so that there was consistency in the message being delivered and real meaningful consultation. Focus groups have been established and are held regularly where workers and management are continually looking at what works and what doesn’t. I recommended this redesign as an example of best practise in the other service restructures within the authority. The team is in a great position for the future because they have made the staff’s ideas and views central to the operation of the service.
The next chapter – Steven Pleasant Chief Executive Tameside MBC
This service has been identified as the trail blazer for our transformation programme. Staff and managers from the service are now supporting other colleagues across the Council and in partner agencies as an exemplar of what can be done. Our story has not ended with a year of transformation, more cuts loom and more tough decisions need to be taken. The Council has worked hard to build a new strategic vision for the neighbourhoods and communities of Tameside. We have recently entered into a new partnership with our local college to provide an innovative opportunity for college students to gain skills in operations and greenspace by working alongside our teams, this provides more unpaid hours into the borough and enables students to achieve higher quality learning as part of their NVQ qualification. This is an example of how we are constantly changing and looking to deliver innovatively and differently in the future. We are confident that we have developed a hugely successful transformation model to continue to adapt flexibly to future funding cuts by working with both our community, partners and staff to develop a strong and robust service that delivers a Borough everyone can be proud of…but at a hugely reduced cost.
The Metropolitan Borough of Tameside is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester in North West England.