Report to STRATEGIC and economic development policy and scrutiny panel 9th feb 2009 - Response to the Recommendations of the roads maintenance working group report

 

 

 

 

By: Executive Member

Strategic Planning, Highways and Economic Development

 

 

 


 

 

Background

 

On the 1 July 2008 the Chairman of the roads maintenance working group reported the findings to the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel.

 

The Working Group has investigated how North Somerset’s roads are currently maintained. The aim was to establish whether the roads’ condition could be improved through better policies, decisions or other actions taken by the Council.

 

One of the Council’s nine corporate priorities is to improve the area’s roads.

 

Road maintenance policies such as the National Standards and Codes of Practice are set by Central Government (Department for Transport). The Council is intending to develop a Highways Maintenance Policy Plan (HMPP) as part of the suite of policies under Transport Asset management. The HMPP. aligns our budget allocation to policies and National codes of practice..

 

The Council is responsible for maintaining public highways in a safe condition. Roads maintenance work is carried out by the Streets and Open Spaces Highways Maintenance Team. The Team inspects and monitors the condition of the public highways; prioritises repairs using national guidelines; and plans annual maintenance programmes. It is also responsible for co-ordinating and inspecting road works carried out by utility companies across North Somerset.

 

The Working Group looked at:

Ø      Funding of road maintenance

Ø      How the Highways Maintenance Team prioritises funds

Ø      How repairs are carried out and their standard

Ø      Procurement and quality assurance

Ø      Improvement and maintenance costs

Ø      Asset management

Ø      Current and Potential Use of local knowledge.

 

The Group also wanted to assess public footpath maintenance, but due to time constraints, this was not carried out. The Group recommends that further investigations into this area are carried out.

 

 

 

 

 

The Recommendations were as follows                                                               

 

Recommendation 1

Timescale

Action By

That officers brief the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel about the time scales for completing 1) the Asset Management Policy and 2) a transparent plan of how the Council will prioritise road work projects. 

2 months

Executive

Director of Development and Environment

Response

Highways Officers will liaise with the Scrutiny panel secretary to arrange a suitable meeting to update the panel on the progress and time scales for the Highways Asset Management Plan.

The Transport Asset management Plan has been developed jointly with neighbouring authorities to provide a consistent approach in the West of England sub region.  The document is now complete and ready for submission the Executive Members for each authority and for agreement jointly.

It is currently anticipated that the document will be presented to the Executive Member during February 2009.  It is proposed to update the document annually with the addition of new asset categories and revised service levels.

Timescale – By the end of the financial year

 

Recommendation 2

Timescale

Action By

That local people and Parish Councils are encouraged to take an active interest in their local roads networks. This to include highlighting areas of concern to the council as well as working in partnership with the local community to improve and maintain the road network.

Ongoing

Parish Councils

Director of Development and Environment

Response

The main link between the public and Parish councils is via Streets & Open Spaces Area Officers. This works well, and when major works are planned, project Engineers consult local communities to explain the reasons for the works and how the impact during construction will be managed. Recent examples include :-

·        Weston in Gordano

·        Clevedon road, Tickenham

Timescale – Ongoing

 

Recommendation 3

Timescale

Action By

That officers set up a priority defect reporting system for receiving local knowledge of flaws in the road network and a systematised way of responding to local reports.

6 months

Executive

Director of Development and Environment

Response

This will need to be considered in connection with the Corporate call centre.  There is an option to consider using the Authority’s Web site, but this approach is not suitable for all members of the public.

Through the implementation of the new business system within Streets and Open Spaces which includes call handling, highway condition surveys and inspections, street works and maintenance management linkages between each module will be established.  This approach has lead to a complete review of the business process within highway maintenance to ensure that actions are referenced back to logged calls and asset condition and maintenance are recorded. 

During the last year the Department for Transport has made funding available for the implementation and development of asset management in relation to highway maintenance.  Officers have submitted the appropriate bids for access to the two elements of this funding.  Element 1 should be available soon and is bid for by individual authorities; element 2 involves bidding for innovative solutions and a joint bid for the West of England has been submitted.  Bid 2 has been developed to fund the enhancement of our customer interface and the transparency of the highway maintenance decision process, if successful this funding will allow for the development of an interactive web based customer service.

Further discussions with the working group will be required to explore options

Timescale – Next financial year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendation 4

Timescale

Action By

That officers create a communications strategy for how to publish information about planned road works. Plans could be communicated via the mediums of North Somerset Life magazine, the council website and the local press. 

6 months

Executive

Director of Development and Environment

Marketing and Communications Team

Response

A Highways Maintenance major work communication strategy has been developed, and is being used. Recent examples include 

·        A370, Farleigh Road, Backwell

·         B3124, Bristol Road, Portishead

·         B3124, Wellington Terrace, Clevedon

·         A371, West Street, Backwell (remedial works)

This needs to be explained to the working group, to ensure that it meets the requirements of the recommendations

Timescale – 3 months (Project Engineers to Meet the working group to explain the detail)

 

Recommendation 5

Timescale

Action By

That officers introduce a quality assurance regime for receiving public feedback on major road work, for example carrying out surveys.

6 months

Executive

Director of Development and Environment

Response

Customer satisfaction surveys have previously been carried out as a trial. e.g.Banwell road closure. The feedback was very low, however, as part of the new Highways contract starting in April, Customer satisfaction is a key area of improvement, and will require constant improvements to be achieved, this will be monitored by monthly Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) This will contribute to the evaluation for extensions of contract.

We are expecting the new contractor to increase local surveys over the life of the contract.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendation 6

Timescale

Action By

Investigation of other areas of funding in order to 1) intensify the road works programme, and 2) enable more road repairs in conservation areas where maintenance costs are particularly high. 

Ongoing

Executive

Director of Development and Environment

Response

There are very few areas of opportunity to achieve improvements in conservation areas within the existing level of funding for additional funding apart from internal funding. Additional Internal funding is used to maximise the financial investment in the highways asset, via the Highways Asset Management Programme, and reduce the backlog of outstanding repairs.

Where a scheme within a conservation area is identified, works will be carried out in a more sympathetic way to try and enhance the area.

Due to the current level of backlog it is difficult to justify high quality maintenance in conservation areas.   

 

Recommendation 7

Timescale

Action By

That Planning Officers consults the Highways Maintenance Team when considering new developments to ensure that road maintenance issues are taken into account.

Ongoing

Executive

Director of Development and Environment

Response

Highways Maintenance comments are already submitted via the Development team which is part of the Transport Policy & Programmes Group. Currently a design guide for developers is being produced which will provide all the necessary information the developer will need to meet the requirements of the highway & transportation Authority. (NSC).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendation 8

Timescale

Action By

That the Executive considers how the Council can consult the National Farmers Union and Country Land and Business Association about how to best promote the conservation of rural networks.

6 months

Executive

Response

Street & Open Spaces Highways Management section are currently revising the “Mud on the Road” pamphlet which will be disrupted to local farmers.

As Streets & Open Spaces now includes a “Natural Environment” section, there is additional opportunities to participate in this initiative with the Executive and working group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The Working Groups Conclusions

In order to ensure good roads, it is crucial that:

 

The Highways Maintenance Team carries out statutory work and manages contractors and utility companies well. The current problems stem from lack of maintenance over several years, which has left the Council which is a huge backlog of issues. The estimated total cost of rectifying all outstanding issues is £80 million (carriageways only). As such, an important way of improving the road network is to secure more funding.

 

So far, the Council hasn’t had an overall strategy on managing its highway assets. This is currently being rectified by the Asset Management Officer who has started mapping out the assets and their condition.

 

One area where current procedures could be improved is the Council’s communication strategy and the involvement of Parish Councils. Parish Councillors are encouraged to set up local monitoring schemes and feed back problems via the Area Inspectors. And the Working Group recommends that the Council introduces a strategy for 1) responding to residents’ report about flaws and dangerous spots; 2) informing the public about upcoming road works; and 3) collecting public feedback on major works.