Skanska in conjuction with Oxfordshire County Council is to reform the way it supervises sub-contractors on its Oxfordshire roads maintenance contract.
In a bid to cut costs and improve standards, 16 recommendations have been accepted by a performance scrutiny committee, including ways to provide more site supervision to increase standards. Fourteen of the recommendations relate to council-led reforms.
As part of the recommendations, Skanska is to “explore ways of using staff more flexibly” to maximise the benefit of staff on site and consider how in-house resources could be used differently. The recomendations will now go to Oxfordshire County Council cabinet members for approval.
Skanska won the 10 year contract to maintain and improve Oxfordshire’s roads in 2010 and looks after 4,506km of roads, 4,023km of footways and 1,000 structures.
The recommendations, taken from the Highways Deep Dive report, were put to the committee in a bid to try to improve road quality and maintenance in Oxfordshire.
The report states that Skanska found it difficult to attract good quality workers in Oxfordshire and to overcome this the contractor has employed sub-contractors, costing four times as much as employing staff directly.
Supervising the sub-contractors was also becoming increasingly expensive, according to the report, and so Skanska will explore using the council’s in-house workforce to supplement the supervision.
The report states: “The council pays Skanska to supervise their sub-contractors, but officers report that this is currently very stretched because of the volume of work being commissioned.
“With the additional planned investment in highway maintenance the volume of work will continue to increase, so officers are considering options for utilising and growing the council’s in-house workforce to help supplement this direct supervision.”
The report adds that works outside of the original scope of work such as clearing gullies could be incorporated to streamline works in an area. The opportunity to do this it said had previously been missed due use of new innovations such as a “dragon-patcher” – a pot hole repair machine – which speeds work up and minimises the number of workers on site.
The report adds that the new measures are needed as 10% of Oxfordshire’s roads are currently categorised as having less than five years residual life remaining. A further 45% are considered to have between five and 15 years remaining.
It said current rates of deterioration indicated that the number of potholes in the county would increase by 32% over the next five years, although severe weather was likely to accelerate this.
Although the council has a Highways Asset Management Plan (HAMP) in place to look the overarching principles, the report states that there needs to be more flexibility and greater scope for councillors to be involved in helping to prioritise local works.
The minutes from the meeting have not yet been made public. However, councillor and repot author Jenny Hannaby confirmed to New Civil Engineer that the recommendations had gone through and would now be taken to cabinet to get the required funding.
“We recognise there are a wide range of factors affecting the public’s perception and experience of highways and not all of these are within the scope of the council’s control or influence,” the report adds. “However, where the council has specific responsibilities, our deep dive has shown that officers are continually seeking ways to improve what they do and searching for innovative approaches.
“There are many promising changes planned or being piloted that we are confident will have a positive impact.”
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