Andrew Smith OBE, Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council, Philip Hoare, Chair of the Highways Term Maintenance Association and David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council discuss how collaboration between local highway authorities does not mean a loss of sovereignty.
HMEP looks at collaborative working and the issue of sovereignty
Narrator: One of the biggest concerns highway authorities have about working collaboratively to introduce far greater efficiencies in highways maintenance is the potential loss of sovereignty as Andrew Smith, Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council explains.
Andrew Smith: For the last 4 or 5 years I worked on construction and capital projects for CLG and realised that local authorities find it difficult to give up sovereignty.
Philip Hoare: One of the challenges of the whole programme is that there is a ‘not invented here’ type syndrome with a number of authorities and a number of client groups. We need to knock down some of those barriers because what we’re after is the most efficient way delivering a service.
David Hodge: Sometimes with large schemes like this, people assume you need to create a huge administration burden but what we’ve actually done is by working together on different levels and in different areas of work we’re able to retain sovereignty within the control of SE7. In other words, the decisions we will make in Surrey will be decisions that the administration of Surrey does, likewise in Kent and in Sussex and Hampshire. When they make a decision collectively, they know that’s the decision that suits the residents and their budget aspirations.
Andrew Smith: You still end up making a local decision, but you make it in a framework where you achieve something more for less. Most politicians and most political leaders in my experience will certainly trade a bit of sovereignty for greater efficiencies, but the trick is to make sure the local decisions with politicians that are accountable and that organisations are accountable if that’s left in place. And I think that’s the key to successful collaboration. If you go to market with a billion pound contract you’ll get a very different response to that than if you go to market with a £200 million contract.
David Hodge: The current crisis local government is in is actually starting to make people realise that we cannot operate as silos, we cannot operate as individual councils. We must actually talk with our neighbours, talk with our colleagues, how can we do things differently?
It really was an eye opener on how other councils were prepared to come to the table, shed their sovereign issues and say ‘let’s work together, let’s do what we can and actually make sure what we can for the benefit of residents’.
Philip Hoare: When we first heard about the HMEP programme, one of the first things we did was to compile a list of all the sort of areas where we felt there were examples of best practice working in local authorities or indeed, just specific things around efficiencies - from pothole repairs to the way back office services are delivered - but basically, to look at different examples of efficiency and provide those to the team putting HMEP together. The great thing is being able to capture those areas of best practice, look at what’s working really well, avoiding reinventing the wheel, because the last thing we want to introduce are additional costs.