Paul Binks, Chair of the North West Highways Alliance, a sub group of LCRIG, discusses the benefits of regional collaboration

Paul Binks, Chair of the North West Highways Alliance, a sub group of LCRIG, discusses the benefits of regional collaboration.  LCRIG would like to encourage new regional groups to be formed – please let us know if this is of interest to you?

NW Highway Alliance is a sub group of the LCRIG family and comprises Asset Managers from each of the Shire and Unitary Authorities and representatives from the two city regions in the North west of England, as well as support from LCRIG and associates. It was formed a couple of years ago from having discussions over lunch at the wider LCRIG meetings. We meet about 3 or 4 times a year and initially were focused on getting a joint understanding of both the DfT Self-Assessment questions and the well Managed Highways Code of Practice.

Each meeting we usually start off with updates from each Authority and then focus on a couple of topics; these have ranged from understanding and discussing the results of the NHT surveys, CQC and PMF, discussing how we monitor performance for  Level 3 of the drainage (q11) question for the DfT Self-Assessment and how we record drainage assets, sharing performance management frameworks and doing a benchmarking exercise on readiness to implement the Well Managed Highways Code of Practice and identifying best practice. We also have presentations from industry representatives from LCRIG.

As the chair of the group I’m always conscious that others are travelling in some instances quite some distance to attend the meetings and expect more than nice biscuits, a cup of coffee and plenty of sandwiches if they are to feel like it’s been worth it. To be honest I can’t say chairing meetings comes naturally and I’m always nervous as people start to arrive. What pleases me though is the enthusiasm by which attendees contribute to the discussions and their readiness for us to set up the next meeting; so we must be doing something right.

Having worked in Local Government for 30 years now and working with engineers I think there is a tendency to try and sort the problem, whatever that may be, ourselves within our own organisations. By looking to see what others are doing in other Authorities though it’s pleasing to know that we are not alone and more or less if I’m having issues with something someone else is and also they’ve got some different ideas of how to solve it; that I think is the main advantage of our group.

Covid travel restrictions does mean that I don’t have to order the tea and biscuits but it didn’t stop us having our meeting in July, be it virtually. With only minor technical issues the meeting overall went well and in anything the restrictions on virtual meetings did allow us to be a bit more focused. We shared how we’d responded to the emergence of Covid and how we’d managed to get back to a new normal and the effect it was having on delivering routine and planned  maintenance . We focused as well on the data collection for the various benchmarking exercises we take part in and specifically how we all measure and report road condition and how we use it to shape the Capital programmes. A couple of Authorities had taken part in the Digital Inspector trails as well and their experience was shared with the group; with us concluding we’d like to know more as the Authorities start to embed the learning.

If you don’t already talk to your near neighbours then I think you should do so and I would encourage anyone to either get a small group together or at least pick up the phone and ask your opposite numbers in another Authority what they are doing over any specific issue.

Published 22/07/2020