A discussion about how collaboration between local highway authorities can encourage efficiencies in highways maintenance.
David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council, Andrew Smith OBE, Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council and Philip Hoare, Chair of the Highways Term Maintenance Association discuss how collaboration between local highway authorities can deliver efficiencies in highways maintenance, and look at the example of the South East 7 (SE7).
Narrator: The South East Seven, otherwise known as SE7, is a good example of councils building a partnership to deliver better, more efficient services, including highways maintenance. David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council, explains.
David Hodge: SE7 was born out of a political drive to see how we could work better collectively and corporately across Surrey, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Medway and Brighton and Hove. The idea was how could we actually deliver better quality services with actual better benefits to the residents of our areas.
Narrator: Andrew Smith, Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council, was quick to recognise that highway authorities needed to achieve greater efficiencies and welcomed the SE7 initiative and the ethos of HMEP. I think the benefits come from when you kind of shape the market so you get more bang for your bucks, you get more efficient and you get more opportunity to drive down costs. I think you get that benefit more readily if you’re in collaboration you get the benefits of standardisation, consistency and the benefits of outcomes with less professional resource. SE7 is an example, still in its infancy, where we believe coming together with seven other authorities will give us the opportunities to get these sorts of benefits.
Narrator: There are already good examples of collaborative working in the highways sector, But for some, collaboration represents a significant cultural change and Andrew Smith, argues that change has to be top down.
Andrew Smith: I think It’s a change programme and we know that sometimes we have to work very hard to embed effective change in an organisation. I think that it comes from both political and managerial leadership. I think it’s a challenge for us to provide that leadership and similarly our colleagues in environment, roads and transportation to demonstrate they’re fit and ready for this particular task. The benefits of embedding a programme is to rate the safety and value of a national asset such as the road network- people want to be safe on that network, they don’t want the disruption and they also want the economic benefits of making sure people can get around the county as they do in other parts of the country.
Narrator: David Hodge, is already seeing local officers buy into the concept.
David Hodge: What we’re trying to do is set out quite clear benchmarking with quality control encompassed within the structure as we go forward to ensure, so we can collectively ensure, we get the best value and ensure that no council is paying unnecessarily for a service from a contractor. We know that in some areas some authorities are paying 80% more than other authorities for different types of areas. In one case we know one authority is paying double the rate that say Surrey does for let’s say emptying our gullies. This is the sort of thing that’s critical that we as the politicians must drive through and make sure we have proper value for money and we are not paying the wrong rates. It’s critical, but it cannot be done without the officer support and that is really - that has really been good about the whole process, is the support we’ve had from the chief execs downwards through the various heads of services and senior officers working on the projects, they’ve made a huge difference. It’s actually really good to see them in the same room. Suddenly it’s not just an officer from Surrey, but it’s an officer helping, what can he/she do for the whole of SE7, that’s really important.