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Parity Between Utilities and Local Authority

By [email protected] - 7th March 2008 - 12:32

East Sussex Case Study by Roger Williams on \"Parity Between Utilities and Local Authority in East Sussex\"
East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is taking a unique approach to the Traffic Management Act (TMA) and is imposing the same exacting financial penalties on its own street works notices as it does on utilities. Under the TMA authorities in England and Wales are required to show parity for street works notices, but in January 2007 East Sussex took this a step further and ensured its term maintenance contractor, May Gurney, has a contractual obligation to pay financial penalties if they submit incorrect notices.Parity of NoticesBy insisting on this high standard of clarity for its own works ESCC, as a street authority, has ensured a level playing field and an open approach to working with utility companies. Roger Williams, Traffic Manager at East Sussex County Council says; âUnder the legislation we have to meet exacting standards, but without imposing financial penalties on ourselves we canât be open and fair. Our approach all along has been to demonstrate parity as well as supporting the DfT in the objectives of the Traffic Management Act. If we donât manage our own works and those of utilities fairly, then how can we effectively manage our network?Under the TMA many local authorities will have to make significant changes to long-established working practices. For the first time, authorities will have to notice their own works. âAccuracy is a lot better with our contractor than it is with some of our utilities,â says Williams. âWeâve already seen a positive impact on our own works with better noticing due to our parity approach. Weâre seeing shorter duration times on site and with the TMA weâve had the opportunity to change our working methods for the better.ââIn terms of our own contract with May Gurney, our analysis does not indicate any additional cost to our residents as a result of incorporating the financial penalty weâve placed in the contract. If there is a nominal increase then the payback is in the improvement of our road management. Itâs positive as we are receiving more reliability in noticing and improvements in our own works.âESCC has welcomed the TMA as it provides a clear drive to undertake its duty and has established clear communication links with all stakeholders enabling ESCC to focus towards managing the network in an efficient manner.Preparation for TMAIn preparation for the TMA, East Sussex County Council has been actively working in unity with its utilities and contractor to promote an environment of partnership and ensure each organisation has a common understanding and practical interpretation of the TMA. As a consequence the authority feels able to work alongside utilities, rather than in a strictly contractual, potentially adversarial way, to support the goals of the DfT and has provided work shop opportunities to air potential issues and identify best practise.Relationships with UtilitiesA common view held amongst utilities are they are being seen to support local government finances Williams is keen to redress this perception and comments, âItâs about working in partnership and in doing so itâs vitally important to be honest with the utilities and our contractor and about ensuring compliance, if works are carried out correctly, with accurate and timely information then the opportunity for charges significantly reduces. We all need to focus on performance rather than failure and understand the reasons why something is going wrong. That way, we can use them as a driver for improvement in services to the end customer. Weâre encouraging open and honest relationships and a move away from adversarial relationships; after all we all serve the same customer.âIf we do things correctly and invest in the IT infrastructure, we will all benefit from reducing errors. We currently run weekly reports from our Exor Highways Management System that produces our exception analyses. From this we can identify which organisations are failing to submit accurate notices.âOne utility in our area achieved an accuracy compliance rate of just 67%, whilst another achieved 92%. With this kind of information weâre able to work with the organisation to improve their position, and help them target resources accordingly. The goal weâre working towards is working with utilities to understand the issues and mitigate any risk where we can.âWhilst all authorities are preparing for the streetworks part of the TMA, East Sussex has spent the past three years preparing for it, with changes to the highways works contract and recruiting staff.âBetter noticing quality equals better compliance, thatâs the philosophy East Sussex are following.â says Giles Montgomery, Local Government Business Development Manager for Exor Corporation. âRoger and his team have taken a very fresh approach to supporting the TMAâs objectives. They have invested, planned and structured their approach with the full support of May Gurney and the statutory undertakers.âIndeed in many quarters East Sussex County Council is being seen as a model to follow in its approach to TMA . Many organisations are taking a real interest in its activities and seeing them as a model to replicate.â

Author: Alun Hunt

Bio.: Marketing & Communications, Exor Corporation Ltd,

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