Waste and Zones Service Review - Colchester Borough Council

This case study relates to support provided for a review of the Waste and Zones Services at Colchester Borough Council. This case study forms part of our productivity experts resource.

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This case study relates to support provided for a review of the Waste and Zones Services at Colchester Borough Council. The review included Refuse and Recycling Collections, Street Cleansing, Market, Parks/Open Spaces and Cemetery and Crematorium. The productivity expert provided support, advice and knowledge transfer to the review project team resulting in the design of transformational change in some of these service areas. The support of the expert enabled development of a comprehensive business case with a range of financial savings and additional income being identified. It also resulted in a new combined management structure being developed for the services.  

The challenge 

Following a senior management restructure for Colchester Borough Council (CBC) which came into effect on 1 July 2017, a series of service reviews known as “Service Futures” were implemented. This programme aims to review and redesign services, so they are fit for the future and to generate financial savings to close an annual budget gap in the Council’s Medium-Term Financial Plan. The Waste and Zones Futures Review had a savings target of £400,000 for 3 years against the annual budget for these services which represents 8.5% of the annual net budget for the services being reviewed. 

Waste and Zones are two of the CBC’s biggest operational services. Waste touches every household every week and Zones is one of the key visible services in communities as it includes Street Cleansing, Street Enforcement and the Market. As such, the scope of this review was agreed by Members. The size of the operations, the scale and range of the work they do presents a set of challenges. In addition to the day to day challenges, the growth in the Borough by approximately 1,000 new properties and 2,000 residents each year adds another pressure and this work aimed to shape how to tackle this and the associated cost pressures.

The two services were previously led by two different Group Management Teams under the Leadership of the Assistant Director for Environment. Significant links and potential benefits of bringing the services closer together had previously been recognised which is why the areas were reviewed together.       

The solution

The Productivity Expert worked closely with, and transferred knowledge to, the cross functional project team. The support of the expert enabled development of a comprehensive business case with a range of financial savings and additional income being identified. In summary, the business case involved:  

  • A review of key income streams including recycling credits and trade waste income
  • A review of external contracts to identify savings against the contract and in contract management resource
  • A review of the existing management structure
  • Identification of resources needed to operate services in the future

It resulted in a new combined management structure being developed for the services. The expert also provided advice on how to achieve maximum value from further investment in front line services. A link to the full business case is shown below.    

The impact

The full impact of the solution is shown in the Business Case accessible via the link below. With the support of the productivity expert, total annual revenue savings of £750,000 were identified and assembled into a business case for approval by the CBC Cabinet. The table below shows these savings:












Savings associated with the decision previously made by Cabinet to purchase vehicles rather than leasing.




Business rates for toilets

The most recent Central Government budget resulted in Business Rates for public toilets no longer being payable from April 2019. Councils will also be compensated for any losses in business rate income. 




iDeverde contract savings

iDeverde currently conduct work that Zones also complete or could complete more efficiently e.g. locking and unlocking Castle Park resulting in savings in the Grounds Maintenance Contract cost.




Management re-structure

By introducing an integrated management structure for Waste and Zones the overall number of managers can be reduced from 18 to 14.









Fees & charges

This represents inflationary increases of existing fees and charges across all paid for services for each year. 




Highwoods Country Park

The team at the Highwoods Park Visitor Centre believe there are opportunities for increased income from sales in the centre with very little additional investment i.e. provision of a credit card reader.




Recycling credits

This was previously agreed by Cabinet and relates to getting a better deal from Essex County Council (ECC) for food waste recycling credits. Further details are provided later in the report.




Cemetery & Crematorium

This relates to new income from increasing the number of direct funerals. These are funerals with no associated service and can be fit in before other funerals at the start of the day.   




Putt in the park

This is a new concession in Castle Park and a lease has been agreed. This new income is as a result of the lease.




Castle Park café

This represents additional income from a new lease for this café over and above the levels already in the budget.









Although some of these had previously been identified, the expert was able to provide challenge and validation. The expert provided support in developing a new combined management structure which will generate £107,000 of annual revenue savings and provide a more effective and integrated service. They also provided advice on the future development of the existing Trade Waste Service including how to introduce a new charging methodology and how to increase future market share, which will be utilised when the new organisational structure has been implemented. Finally, their advice enabled a case to be made for further investment in the front line refuse and recycling collection service and the depot the service operates from. The magnitude of the savings identified in the Business Case were sufficient to invest the required funding for the service to grow to meet the future needs of Colchester.         

How is the new approach being sustained?

The approach will be sustained through the implementation of a new organisational structure. With the support of the expert, the structure has been designed so that posts and responsibilities will be able to implement the changes identified through the review. A Project Board has also been established and will remain in place to monitor and review progress with the changes. A new performance dashboard has also been designed for the new service and will be used to monitor the impact of these changes on service delivery.     

Lessons learned

One of the key lessons learned was that if a new management structure is being proposed, having some support from the productivity expert prior to the restructure and some after implementation would be beneficial to enable knowledge transfer to the managers in the new structure.

Contact: [email protected]

Links to relevant documents: Cabinet report with business case