Weeknotes #5 – equality for local authorities at Highways UK

‘’Local authority-focused content is on an equal footing to the strategic road network at this year’s Highways UK,’’ says Andrew Dowding, MD of the Highways UK Show, on 6-7 November 2019 at the NEC, Birmingham.

I shared that and added some context in a recent Linked In post:

‘I’ve visited Highways UK every year since its launch in 2015. Like many others, I wondered why it felt like a Highways England show. Where was the Local Authority focus? Little did I know that in 2018 I’d be asked to help fix that, as Local Authorities Manager for the show 😳😱🙈. Quite a challenge. We made some progress last year. And have built on that this year: http://bit.ly/HUK-LAHub Huge thanks to everyone who has provided such brilliant support to make this a reality.’

I’m passionate about raising the voice, value and recognition of our local road networks, and all who work tirelessly to keep it safe and functioning despite tremendous challenges. These challenges can feel pronounced when compared to the relative luxury of funding and interest in the strategic road network.

Why does this matter? Because many millions of people, and our economy, business and health are affected by us not trying to solve this.

There are too many reasons why these challenges between the local and strategic road network exist to list them here. Much of it is cultural, some of it political, and from my perspective, it’s deeply unfair. It’s this unfairness, fuelled by difficulties in knowing how to put aside decades old prejudices and assumptions, that inspires me to try and make a small positive difference every single day.

Why do local authorities have to silently suffer the impact of closures or diversions from the strategic road network onto their local road network, yet when they need to divert traffic onto the strategic road network to undertake essential works, are told no?

Why is it that drivers can be routed off the strategic road network during severe weather, without Highways England first checking whether damage, closures or diversions on the local road network might actually make this less safe?

Stakeholder engagement has been cited to me by representatives of both the local and the strategic road networks as a core challenge in resolving difficulties. It is kind of obvious that local authorities need to be highly skilled at this; indeed many have learnt to be, as there are a tremendous number of different voices and needs to consider in the design of any works / changes to the local road network.

The sheer number of stakeholders, and complexity in managing many and sometimes conflicting needs can seem overwhelming to those without experience in doing so.

We won’t solve stakeholder engagement in one short blogpost, or even in this years show. But what I have chosen to do in the design of the Local Authority Hub at Highways UK is:

  • give a voice to those leading the way in core relevant topic areas that are of interest to many local highways authorities – see the Local Authority Hub programme;
  • raise awareness of the topics in advance through a series of blogposts and social media activity – see list below;
  • encourage those delivering each session to deliver their work in an engaging, narrative style, and design time for shared learning activities so that the audience go away feeling they understand something new about the local highway network that they didn’t know before.

It is testament to the support of the Highways UK Team, Ringway as Hub sponsors, and ADEPT, LGTAG and LCRIG as Hub supporters that we are able to make this possible.

You can see full details of all eight sessions, including timings and delivery teams, here

Here are the latest published blogposts to get yourself ready:

  • Winter in coming… by Dom Proud (Balfour Beatty). Read the blog here.
  • The ICE, SDGs and Highways UK – A Story. Read the blog here.
  • Permitting – advice and experience from Jeff Elliott, West Sussex County Council. Wed 6 Nov @12pm. Read the blog here.
  • Busting Congestion: delivering live road closure information to sat navs (Elgin / Ringway / Ringway Jacobs / Hertfordshire County Council / Essex County Council). Wed 6 Nov @1pm Read the blog here.
  • Maximising the ‘co’ in Collaboration: powerful insights from Ashley Prior, Head of Highways at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, on his journey to improve contract performance and communication. Wed 6 Nov @3:15pm. Read the blog here.
  • What colour is your umbrella? climate change readiness, from Balfour Beatty, Southampton City Council, the Institution of Civil Engineers and Contented Ltd. Thurs 7 Nov @12:15pm. Read the blog here.
  • Are you ready for an Emergency? LGTAG’s John Lamb and Dom Donnini, and TRLs Sarah Reeves challenge that more needs to be done to prepare and respond to emergencies such as severe weather or other incidents. They also signpost guidance, training and tools that can help. Thurs 7 Nov @1:15pm. Read the blog here.
  • How to build the business case for resilience; an insight into the development of the HIRAM and DeTECToR tools to reduce risks of, and secure investment for resilience against climate change impacts on the local and strategic road networks. Jon Munslow (South Gloucestershire Council / South West Highways Alliance, and Sarah Reeves, TRL). Thurs 7 Nov @2:15pm. Read the blog here.

Tickets are free, and attendance is accredited for CPD by CIHT. See what else is available for Local Authorities, and secure your place at Highways UK on 6-7 November 2019 today.