Andrew Smith OBE, Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council and Philip Hoare, Chair of the Highways Term Maintenance Association explain some of the reasons why the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) was established.
Why the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) was set up
Narrator: The Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme came out of the last spending review, one of the toughest for many years. Andrew Smith, Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council, explains why the programme was set up.
Andrew Smith: I think we all know the problems of public finances at the moment, we all know about getting more efficient in what we do is important. I think part of that efficiency is collaborating with other local authorities. That requires local government to come together to do that and I think that collaboration has to be with the DfT as well as it controls a great deal of the resource we need to work in partnership with central and local government.
Narrator: An influential voice for contractors is the Highways Term Maintenance Association, or HTMA. Its chair, Philip Hoare, outlines why contractors have also welcomed the inception of HMEP.
Philip Hoare: We recognised very early on that the best thing for us to do as an organisation was to look at the HMEP programme and see how we could support that. At the moment the challenges facing us is all about trying to maximise the amount of money that goes into front line services and the best way of doing that I think is for public and private sectors to really throw everything up on the air and really say ‘let’s look at how we deliver services and importantly look at how these services are delivered together to maximise the efficiency.
There are a number of examples out there already of really excellent relationships that have been developed. For example, there’s Buckinghamshire County Council which has worked very well with Noy Jacobs to develop an incredibly tight knit partnership using a theme client model, which again, is starting to deliver efficiencies in the sector. There’s Gloucestershire for example, one very close to my heart, which I ran myself which has been in place for about 5 years, which is a very integrated public/private partnership where half the staff are Atkins employees and half are Gloucestershire CC employees.
Andrew Smith: I think we’ll agree that where an idea is a good enough one you should look at it seriously. We’ve been looking at procurement efficiencies, cost reductions and transformation programmes. I think this programme sits fairly amongst those and know we spend £30 to £40 million a year of council money on the network and if we look at that over the life of the council, it’s in excess of £100 million in each administration. I think there’s a realisation with our private sector partners that we have to get smarter, we have to get more for less.
Narrator: But as Philip Hoare is keen to highlight, there are many challenges facing the programme.
Philip Hoare: The fact is that the way that the highways maintenance works in the UK and England in particular, there are a variety of 150 or so different highway authorities all doing things in different ways. Some of them deliver services in-house, some of them work very closely with the private sector already. So at one extreme you could say there are 150 different answers for each of the different authorities or you could say there’s one - when actually it’s somewhere between. And what we need to do as part of the programme is develop a range of solutions that allows authorities to still have that independence to select what is more appropriate to them but to actually minimise that and try to standardise and introduce some consistency because this variety and lots of different authorities using different contract forms, different sets of specifications for work, this variety introduces inefficiency.
Narrator: But in spite of being supportive of a new reality in highway maintenance, surely contractors will only be driven by bottom line results and maximise profit at every opportunity.
Philip Hoare: Clearly we are private sector companies, all of us engaged in the HTMA, and we need to make a profit, that’s why we exist. However, what we recognise is that there is so much to go at in terms of driving efficiency in this sector, we want this sector to be a buoyant one for both the private and public companies involved in delivering these services and we recognise the only real way of doing that is to look at how we can work together. As individuals and leaders in our business in the HTMA, we’re absolutely driven by that and I know that my counterparts in the member organisations of the HTMA are absolutely focussed on how we can use this programme to drive efficiency, drive some real innovations etc and actually make it an exciting and dynamic place for ourselves and our member companies to operate in.