Council in driving seat for service innovation

A recent expansion of the family has filled the home with more than its fair share of love, laughter, stress and noise. With that infusion, space becomes a seriously premium commodity. Especially as chaos reigns supreme over the King of Disorganisation (that’s me).

I scored a major victory against the chaos the other day with a bit of lateral thinking. The missus would tell you it’s a very minimal, teeny weeny victory, but hey I’m a bloke, so I’m rightly proud.

We, the Royal ‘We’ that is, needed space; a space to list everything required on our next shop – pretty essential when your key skills are forgetting the baps on a bacon butty breakfast run. But when I tell you that, in our kitchen there isn’t a spare inch that isn’t covered with a cardboard moon rocket or a handprint spider you hopefully get the idea that we’re pretty damn short of somewhere to stick any kind of notice board. Until, that is Captain Creativity steps in (sorry, that’s the bloke talking again) and remembers that amongst the similar state of chaos in the garage, there’s an old tin of blackboard paint. See where I’m going with this? Yes, the back of a cupboard door. Here’s the clever blokey bit: not just the back of any old door, but the single most visited cupboard in our kitchen’s history – packed full of dried herbs, spices and toddler-bribes (that’s breadsticks and dried apricots to you and me.) Yup - it’s now covered in a splash of the black stuff - a spangly new chalkboard that never lets a tin of beans, bread or a crate of beer slip through the net of havoc. Amount of space taken up in the kitchen? In terms of volume, approximately 0.0002m3. Amount of items left off the next shop? Exactly none. Genius.

And talking of space, lateral thinking and downright great innovation, the Council of The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has just scored a direct hit. The Council registered itself as a seller on eBay and is putting parking permits for guaranteed parking spaces under the hammer.

Initially, only three-month permits are up for grabs, but if successful, the authority hopes to extend the scheme to provide six and twelve-month contracts.

A reserve will be placed on each auctioned permit to ensure that the Council doesn’t make a loss. However, in true eBay style, it could still be possible to obtain a permit cheaper on the site than directly from the Council, officials said. The reserve price has yet to be fixed.

Councillor Colin Rayner, cabinet member for Highways and Streetcare, said the idea came about after the Tory council successfully sold a surplus of old workmen's boots and gloves on eBay. This they had to do for three months, in compliance with eBay rules, before they could become a corporate seller. Fair play to them; I haven’t even got my backside in gear yet to get my pine furniture, unused tools and children’s toys out of the garage mayhem, never mind under the online hammer.

Councillor Rayner continued, "Most motorists want to be able to find a parking space quickly in the mornings on their way to the office and this scheme will guarantee the same space for the same car every day for the duration of their contract.

"It’s all about providing a premium service for motorists. As a council we are committed to signing up to the use of new media to communicate our messages to our residents and we are hoping the use of eBay will take our message to more residents and make this scheme a successful one.”

The campaign will be launched with adverts on eBay explaining other incentives, including constant CCTV surveillance and free weekly car wash vouchers for successful bidders.

I loved this story when I first stumbled across it because it made me realise, rather like my ‘genius’ blackboard idea, you don’t necessarily have to look for new things to provide great service solutions; you can always innovate with the stuff that’s already around you.