Leaders and politicians in highways authorities must work collaboratively together if an ambition to make 30% savings in maintenance by 2030, senior industry figures said last week.
Speaking at the launch of the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) first annual plan, highways leaders pledged to help the industry achieve savings of 15% by 2015 and at least 30% by 2030.
They said that to do so would require a step change in how authorities behaved, particularly with regard to collaboration. But added that it would be vital that they succeed in making the savings, because of increasing pressure on budgets.
Complacency had been an issue in healthier economic climates of the past resulting in a lack of collaboration across authorities, but that now had to change, they said.
“There are 153 highway authorities [in England, for example] - that to me demonstrates the challenge,” said Steve Kent, Cheshire West and Chester Council director localities and HMEP board member. “What we’re trying to break up is the idea that there are 150 different ways of doing things.
‘The pressures on local authorities are much more significant nowadays and they are being forced to look very, very hard at what they do and why they do it. No one can afford to carry on as they are - we’ve all been guilty [of some complacency] in the past.”
The key to the new initiative is that HMEP will not enforce the required changes but rather engage leaders and politicians in a way that encourages them to share best practice in a way they have not yet managed.
HMEP currently works with 75% of local highways authorities but believes there is more to be done.
“Leadership is paramount,” said contractor Mouchel director of public services and board co-member Matthew Lugg. ” And political engagement is key with the people at the top facing the economic challenges.”
“Incremental change will not get us where we need to be,” said Highways Term Maintenance Association executive director and board co-member Geoff Allister.
HMEP’s annual plan highlights case studies where some authorities have already made headway in efficiencies.