14 April 2022 | Collaboration | Our Work

Will Britain set to retire from Blackpool Council

Will Britain has announced his retirement after 43 years service at Blackpool Council. The Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) spoke to Will about the reasons why he’s retiring and his legacy in the sector. 

Will, who is Head of Highways and Traffic Management Services at the local authority, will retire at the end of May.

After starting his career as a Junior Trainee Technician in June 1979 Will has held a variety of roles, including Head of Drainage, before being made head of the highways department.

Will established LCRIG in 2013 to encourage councils to work together and with the ‘highways community’ to support the Department for Transport (DfT) to deliver innovation on a national level.

Reflecting on his decision to retire, the 61-year-old said: “Someone said to me years ago that you’ll always know when the right time comes. When I was younger I never thought I’d think about retirement but there are about 50 things in a box that I could pick out that have helped me make the decision – things about your own life, health, friends and things you enjoy doing outside of work. I think you’ve got to put things into perspective. The time is right and it has arrived.

“In terms of Blackpool, we’ve built up a really good team. You don’t do anything without teamwork so I can leave knowing that I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve. ”

In the early 2000s Will made it his mission to raise awareness and improve the way in which road condition surveys were carried out.

He continued: “I can see on the near horizon that the DfT are going to change the way in which they survey the roads. This was something I put to the late Steve Berry in around 2010. He saw that kind of passion I had around the way in which I thought, and what we were doing at Blackpool, based on a grading system. That’s been a massive change for the better for the sector. If you don’t innovate you just stand still and life walks past you. There certainly was some innovation needed in highway asset surveys.

“With LCRIG I could never have predicted the massive effect that it was going to have. That’s largely been thanks to Susanne Ingham (Secretariat) and the team for helping put it together. And of course, the DfT. If we hadn’t had the support of the DfT initially then we probably never would have been where we are now. It’s so satisfying to know that LCRIG has got a real place in the middle of the sector to do what it does. That’s helping all councils and joining SMEs to help them do more business and do the things they’re good at.”

Talking about the importance of innovation, Will added: “Innovation is a massive and important part of what we do in the highways sector. There will always be traditionalists, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s a realisation that innovation is here and what you see today is gone tomorrow. When you look at the Transport Technology Forum (TTF) there are hundreds of amazing new products on the market which you can see are going to make a massive difference in the sector. From my early days coming into the office back in 1979 – an office that had oak wood drawing boards and ink wells – there were no phones, computers or email so there has been massive change over the years.

“Everything in highways revolves around technology. You only need to look at the last two years and the way we operated and kept the sector going through Teams or Zoom. That’s made a massive difference to the way we work and keeping collaboration going.

“Innovation is at the heart of LCRIG and the sector. It’s okay having new innovative techniques and methods along with suppliers and services – but you’re only going to embed them when you’ve shared that. The sharing is as important or perhaps more important than the innovation itself. Without sharing and collaborating you ain’t going to embed it. Why would you want to innovate something if you knew that it wasn’t going to go anywhere? That’s been the heart of what LCRIG has achieved and what it stands for.”

So, what has Will got planned for his retirement?

“I’m an active person and I’ve got plenty of jobs to do at home!,” he joked. “I love gardening and walking and am looking forward to seeing more of the UK. I can spend more time with friends, relax and enjoy life.”

In the early days of LCRIG, Will was the driving force behind the organisation.

“I used to chair the group, write up the agenda and take my own minutes,” he remarked. “What I got from the group was I always came away knowing a little bit more than I did the day before. What I really saw in the eyes of the engineers and local authorities who came to the group was a relaxed atmosphere and a willingness to open up about what their problems and issues were. What made me really proud was the fact that the DfT attended. It was Steve Berry in the early days but that has now continued. That has probably made me the proudest because you always know when you’ve done something that’s useful when you’ve got the likes of the DfT involved, taking an interest and having an input. LCRIG is held in high regard by the sector and that’s something I am very proud of.”

The Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) recently promised its members they will be ‘Making the case for local roads’ after unveiling the phrase as its new strapline.

So how would Will sum up how LCRIG makes the case for local roads?

“I think it is about not being too complex and keeping things simple. The language that is used around local roads needs to be kept simple. At the end of day local roads are used by local people. If you are talking to people who are the customers or the residents, then it is about articulating to them what matters. That is things like road condition, drainage, street lighting and all the assets that are on their road. They are real concerns and issues for some people. It is about being proud of their community. It’s not just a network, it’s a social network. I think LCRIG has a knack of keeping language simple and embedding innovation into society that’s going to help local roads thrive – not just in terms of condition – but also the way in which people behave.”

Lastly, what would Will say to someone who might be considering a career in highways?

“It’s really varied in terms of what you can do and what you can achieve. Generally, with local council work you’re mixing with really nice people, and the work that you get involved with – in some ways you can be left as your own master and given freedom to innovate. And when you look at the private sector there’s massive opportunities there.

“The key thing around the highways sector is that it is so varied in terms of what you can do. There’s never a day goes by when you’re not learning something different.”

If you would like to join us in wishing Will all the best for his retirement, please email us with your message and we will collate the responses to pass on.