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AME conference round up


PRIVATE SECTOR firms will squeeze municipal engineers out of local authority work unless they prove their competence and raise their profile with the government, a leading municipal engineer said at the AME conference last week.

As the government comes under increasing pressure to improve public services, 'the time is now for us, as municipal engineers, to prove that we are capable of meeting its demands, ' said Essex County Council head of transport and operations, John Sanders. 'If we do not, the private sector will take the reins.'

But director of the London Borough of Merton Richard Rawes urged members to 'move towards the danger. Change is inevitable, ' he said. He argued that local authorities should see their future role more as 'co-ordinators of public services, not necessarily service providers'.

Rawes said the provision of public services had to be firmly focused on the customer. It does not matter whether the service is provided by the public or private sector, he argued.

Mouchel managing director Jeff Morris agreed that improving performance is paramount.

'REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES' are set to overtake the construction industry, ICE senior vice president Mark Whitby told delegates at the AME annual conference.

Whitby called for 'the dissolution of barriers between respective professions within the industry'.

Inter-disciplinary groups such as the Urban Design Alliance, bringing together engineers, architects, urban planners, environmentalists and economists, will dramatically improve design standards and the quality of the built environment, he said.

In education, IT is rapidly transforming science and technology teaching, Whitby added, drawing for illustration on the John Kelly Technology College in Brent, London, where students as young as 11 have been involved in designing threedimensional objects using a version of CAD software ProDesktop.

Such initiatives are spreading through the education system, improving the competence of students entering higher education.

Increasingly, university entrants will have an understanding of how structures, mechanics and technology fit together, he predicted.

'AS FOR the future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it, ' added Mark Whitby at the AME conference last week, quoting French aviator and novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

High altitude, solar powered, automatically piloted aircraft will supersede satellites, Whitby predicted. The new generation aircraft will be cheaper to manufacture and launch, and easier to maintain and replace, he claimed.

Whitby Bird & Partners, the consulting firm in which Whitby is a partner, is designing a super light, solar powered plane and has approached the government with proposals for using the aircraft to monitor car speeds. The spys in the sky could be operational within 10 years, he said.

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