Timesage is a commercial brand for Melton Borough Council. The initial aim was to develop a pilot with a view to providing chargeable services to local people using a monthly subscription payment model. The pilot period was used to extend our lifeline services to support more independent living but we also have plans moving forward for leisure activity packages. This case study forms part of our productivity experts resource.
The initial pilot work has helped to establish the web based infrastructure and proof of concept and we are currently embedding the culture and ethos into operational services.
Like many other local authorities Melton Borough Council wants to become less dependent on government grants in the future and faces big financial challenges in the next few years. The last four year settlement saw us lose £933K of grant support, or 42 per cent.
The solution: The Pilot has established a brand of Timesage and an associated website. Packages can be developed by services with customers signing up to monthly subscription payments. We have proved the concept because we have sold packages via the website. We are now looking to develop this in our business as usual work in different areas. We are also looking at how we can incentivise staff to start driving greater levels of commercial activity in their services using the brand and the monthly subscription model.
The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable): During the pilot period additional sales income of £10k per annum was generated in the selected trial service for enhanced Lifeline. This was achieved by the end of the pilot but the challenge is now to embed into normal service delivery. We are currently challenging two service areas to develop packages and utilise the website. The Lifeline service and the Leisure service staff will now be attempting to achieve commercial income streams over the next 12 months. If successful we will look at business cases to increase staffing resources in these areas.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The core web infrastructure and brand is in place at minimal ongoing cost (roughly £4k per annum) to the council, with the ongoing development now sitting with existing service leads. Those service leads are being incentivised to think more commercially and if they are successful, the council is committed to considering business cases to increase staffing resources in order to generate yet more income. In order to incentivise colleagues, we are creating higher pay bandings. To progress, postholders will need to demonstrate commercial acumen and appropriate skill sets.
The original concept at the start of the pilot was to try and develop new services for people with the ability to pay for them. This would have required more risk during a pilot period. Firstly, the services may have been completely new, meaning the Council would have to commit to new delivery mechanisms and secondly, the end of the pilot itself meant that confidence in ongoing delivery of the service was a negative factor when thinking about making the service attractive to people with those resources. To overcome this we stuck to existing service areas such as Lifeline but this meant we were not always targeting services at those people who live in the Borough and have the greatest capacity to pay for services.
We also learnt a lot about how to engage with people and to market services through digital channels. This included how to obtain permission to use email addresses appropriately, as well as the learning points beneath:
- The Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulation – ensure explicit permission has been given to contact potential users utlising their e-mail address
- Utilisation of MOSAIC, a market segmentation tool assisted in targeting the most effective communication mechanism to specific sub groups (e.g. Facebook and Twitter are used more by those in mid-life and some silver surfers (rather than by young people (who have evolved to more trendy comms mechanisms) or other senior residents who prefer a letter)
- Prize draws can be effective to encourage engagement
- Relevant linked information is effective to encourage potential users to visit the site
- Pictures work better than words alone and video clips can be more effective than pictures in some instances
Keith Aubrey, Deputy Chief Executive (Director People and Communities)
Grace Abel, Productivity – Advisor,
Links to relevant documents