I’m delighted to join you for this year’s National Highways and Transport Network Conference.
The theme for this year’s Conference is ‘striving for greater efficiency’ - which is also a key theme for this government.
And particularly apt for the work we are doing on local highways maintenance.
I know that today the network is publishing the annual Public Satisfaction Survey results.
Participation in this survey has again been high with 78 authorities taking part.
This is a significant and rigorous piece of work.
Which provides very useful insight into public perception.
Response rates were also higher this year, because - just like the government - the public and councils recognise the importance of well-maintained national and local highways.
They affect our economy, our communities, and each of us as individuals.
I know that the survey covers many areas of transport besides highway maintenance and I will touch on these later, but I make no apology for focusing on the condition of our roads.
While this year’s survey once again highlights road condition as the biggest concern, I am pleased to see that we are moving in the right direction.
And on this satisfaction levels are improving, albeit from a low point last year.
This is in no small part due to the actions the government has taken - and is continuing to take.
From additional funding, including the £168 million pothole fund awarded to authorities in June this year.
To the excellent progress made by the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme.
There is significant scope for many councils to change their approach.
I want to see more of them emulating the best performing authorities.
And I want them finding more efficient ways of working, and getting more from every pound they spend on local roads.
As the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently highlighted, Britain is the fastest growing, most job creating, most deficit reducing of any major advanced economy on earth.
But we must not be complacent and though we’ve brought the deficit down by half, there still remains a lot to do.
However despite the ongoing budget pressures, this government is playing its part in helping authorities improve the condition of their roads.
That is why in the June 2013 Spending review we made a near-£6 billion funding commitment for local highways maintenance between 2015 and 2021.
I hope to publish in the next couple of weeks a formal consultation paper which sets out how best this funding can be allocated to local highway authorities in England.
One of the key themes will be ‘striving for greater efficiency’ - the same as today’s (14 October 2014) conference.
It’s essential that local highways maintenance strive for efficiencies to achieve the best value for money for the taxpayer.
There are over 150 different highway authorities, very often doing things in quite different ways.
It is clear that councils can learn from each other and get more for less.
The Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme launched in April 2011 is there to help them.
And indeed to help the wider sector, including contractors and suppliers, to maximise its returns on investment.
I am pleased that the programme’s work is now well underway.
And as minister responsible for local highways maintenance, it’s particularly encouraging to see some of the more innovative authorities’ work.
They are proving that it is possible to transform roads and services within strict budgets.
The National Highways and Transport Network Public Satisfaction Surveys are key to ensuring that councils deliver high value services that local residents rightly demand.
The results mean we all can gauge and assess performance in those areas that residents see as most important.
More importantly, the surveys give people a chance to influence decisions about services and how they are delivered.
Even if they don’t normally get involved.
So I hope that councils use the satisfaction survey data and other data creatively and positively
- to give them a more complete picture of customer perceptions
- to analyse the technical quality of carriageways and footways as revealed by detailed surveys undertaken by highway authorities
- to track where money’s being spent
- and to identify best practice and improve service delivery
I expect that many of you here today will be digging - sorry no pun intended - into the results for your authority, be you a Councillor, official, provider of highway or other transport services, or a member of the public and user of the roads and services.
I know that the survey also covers public satisfaction on many other transport services including:
- pavements and footways
- safer roads
- local buses
- traffic and congestion
- street lighting
- cycle routes
So I will be looking with interest at the latest results for north Yorkshire where my own constituency is situated. I also know that north Yorkshire are long-term participants in the Survey, allowing them to track how they are doing on a wide range of transport services.
You’ll actually be hearing from Andrew Bainbridge of north Yorkshire County Council later today, and I don’t want to steal any of his thunder.
But I expect he’ll be highlighting the results for north Yorkshire and explaining how that authority uses them, with other information to make their own decisions on priorities and decisions on how to make the most efficient and effective use of their resources - including, very importantly, how they plan the management of their highway assets.
It’s good to see that the public also have access to information for where they live and can make comparisons with the results for other authorities.
This is very much in line with the transparency principles that this government encourages.
In conclusion, the work of the National Highways and Transport Network is vitally important.
Making better use of detailed information.
And making that information available to local people.
Can help highway authorities right around the country improve what they do.
So I hope everyone will continue to participate.
Thank you all for listening.
And I hope you all have an interesting and successful day.