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Your questions answered

We have received a number of questions and queries from colleagues about the proposed new ways of working to deliver highways services across Derbyshire from the face-to-face and online briefing sessions, the ask.jules email service and the briefing event feedback forms.

The comments and queries have been grouped by themes for easy reference. As the Derbyshire highways programme progresses and further questions are received, additional information will be added to this section.


Please review the information and talk to your line manager if you have any specific comments, suggestions or concerns. Alternatively, if you prefer, please email ask.jules@derbyshire.gov.uk with your question.

How we are delivering our transformation programme

Delivering Derbyshire Highways

We have appointed a project team and have the backing of Members and our senior management team to deliver the transformation programme. We also have financial support to invest in people and the systems and technology we need.

We are committed to making sure we change how we work to deliver the quality highway services our communities expect.

Developing the proposals

The new service will be developed with colleagues who have extensive experience and expertise and who have been delivering the services to date. Our approach is to work closely with those who are best placed to share their insights about new ways of working - our highways team.

We will share the details about the new service structure with colleagues once the broad service and function specifications have been developed.

Working more effectively and efficiently

Programming highway work

Due to hyperinflation and rising costs, we have had to look very carefully at all our works, including our capital programme, to prioritise the work we can afford to do, while meeting the expectations of our members and stakeholders and the commitments we have made to local communities.

This is a complex process which we need to get right to make sure we spend money in a planned way.

We intend to develop a forward programme of works to share with teams to help everyone prepare for and effectively deliver their part of the work programme.

About network management and the Highways Hub

Network management is one of 6 proposed functions within the proposed commissioning service. These include:

  • asset management
  • technical services
  • commissioning management
  • communications and engagement
  • network management
  • emergency planning

The commissioning service will prioritise works across the network, in line with the priorities of members and stakeholders, and our statutory duties, co-ordinating improvements to minimise disruption and to deliver value for money.

This service will work alongside the proposed delivery service who will be responsible for making sure all our projects and schemes are delivered on time and on budget.

The network management function will be responsible for being aware of day-to-day issues across the network, making sure that work is effectively co-ordinated and integrated, with a view to ensuring that safe, reliable journeys are available to all road users.

Further work is needed before we can decide where activities currently undertaken within the Highways Hub will best sit in the future service – in either the commissioning or delivery service.

IT and mobile networks

We recognise that it can be frustrating for inspectors and other colleagues to be unable to use a device and to record repairs due to a poor mobile network signal.

This is a challenge in a county like Derbyshire with peaks and valleys affecting network coverage. We are already working with colleagues in ICT to look at ways we can tackle this alongside our supplier.

We will be looking at how we record defects with Alloy, but coverage will never be 100% due to the geography of our county.

Gully emptying

We are trialling a new system on the A6 using sensors to alert us if drains are becoming full of water and need emptying during heavy rainfall.

This is part of the works to repair and refurbish the retaining walls between Matlock and Whatstandwell, following funding from the Local Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund.

We are using technology to streamline the ways we work to maximise efficiencies and value for money.

Alloy asset management system

Confirm will be replaced by Alloy, led by our colleagues in the Smart Asset Management team (SAMS) who are planning the implementation of this new way of working.

We are aware of the separate structures asset management system (AMX) and the benefits it is bringing to the service. Certain assets are more complicated than others but as we work through the functional areas, the business analysts will speak to you to understand what you do and the systems you use.

Training and procedures

We recognise that some colleagues feel that our operational procedures are not documented. We have made a note of this and will consider formal, documented approaches to ensure staff receive appropriate training and support to deliver the highways service.

We will provide appropriate training to support colleagues across the service including the admin hub staff, to learn new approaches, systems and tools will be developed as part of the programme.

Recruitment and terms and conditions

Jobs and terms and conditions

The transformation programme is not looking to reduce the number of jobs across the highway service or to make redundancies, but it will look at new ways of working which could lead to changes to job roles and duties.

There is an ongoing recruitment drive to attract more people to join the team. The capital programme will deliver around £58 million of new investment across the county's road network, one of the biggest amounts of money we've ever spent.

Contracts

Contractual changes may be required if you change job roles and/or if any changes are required as a result of reviewing how we work as part of the highways transformation programme.

Recruitment and use of agency staff

We are recruiting for approximately 60 permanent staff to support our inhouse team to deliver the significant work programme.

Agency staff are brought in where permanent vacancies exist or where there is a short term need to support permanent staff. Permanent staff receive a number of generous benefits including access to the local government pension scheme, generous paid annual leave, paid bank holidays, sick pay and a comprehensive wellbeing package including physio, counselling and occupational health support.

We will consider opportunities to make savings including reducing our use of agency staff.

Retirement, workforce planning and succession planning

We are working closely with colleagues in HR to implement our workforce plan which will enable us to develop, attract and keep the workforce with the capabilities we need for the future and improve our succession planning to ensure we have people with the relevant skills and capabilities before people leave or retire.

New structures, recruitment, retention pay and grading

In delivering the new highway service and functions, new structures will be implemented, and a number of existing job roles will be amended and new roles created. We will be working closely with colleagues to define the new roles, offering suitable training and support to help those who are interested in applying.

We are aware of the significant challenges facing employees including the cost of living and recruitment and retention issues. A working group has been established to look at these issues, and work continues on enhancing the benefits offer for employees. At present, we are in the process of procuring an employee benefits and discount provider and are also looking at options to extend the types of leave schemes available.

We hope to develop career graded posts for certain job roles and will look to create clearer career pathways to assist with recruitment, retention and enabling employee development.

Night shifts

No decisions regarding the working of night shifts have been made or if any changes to the current working patterns are needed.

If it is considered the right option to do at any time in the future, it would be a significant change to the current way of working and could affect existing terms and conditions.

This would take time to implement in accordance with our policies and procedures.

Overtime

There is no overtime ban in place. Like any responsible publicly funded organisation, we have to make sure we manage our budgets carefully and ensure that all use of overtime can be justified and we can ensure that there are adequate work / life balances in place to support individuals health and wellbeing.

Personal development

My Plans

We will be supporting line managers to arrange annual My Plans to ensure colleagues understand their objectives and have the opportunity to discuss their development needs.

Developing new skills for our inhouse teams

To help us reduce our reliance on appointing external partners to deliver major projects, we intend to appoint one professional service partner.

The partner will support our inhouse staff, sharing their knowledge and upskilling our colleagues to reduce the reliance on external agency staff, increasing the skills set and knowledge of our team.

This will help to streamline how we work, reduce duplication and give us all a clearer understanding of progress on specific projects.

Feeling valued and recognised

We are always looking at opportunities to find out if our staff feel valued and recognised, using feedback from our employees including surveys and other engagement forums. Since receiving this feedback we've established a working group to review and develop our approach to local, departmental and corporate recognition. We're also undertaking work to develop a new employee benefit scheme.

Information will be available through Our Derbyshire newsletters and through line managers as and when these additional employee benefits become available. See what employee benefits and discounts are already available to employees.

Vehicles

Use of personal vehicles

We understand that some colleagues are using their own personal vehicles for work purposes. Whilst this is permissible in many cases, colleagues who need a work vehicle for working on a live road should be provided with a full chapter 8 vehicle.

We will be discussing this with colleagues affected.

Rangers vs Connect vans

The Ranger 4-wheel drive vehicles are wide, making access to carry out inspections along narrow lanes very difficult.

Colleagues are advised to use Connect vans with an appropriate flashing lightbar to ensure they are safe.

Working with and managing our contractors

Using contractors for traffic management services

We have no plans to externalise the highways service. We are proud of our inhouse design and construction teams and the work we deliver. It helps us to provide a responsive service to our communities.

We do need to use some contractors because our inhouse resource is limited and we need to deploy our limited resources in the most effective way.

We use contractors to provide temporary traffic management services across the county, for example when we need to install temporary traffic lights.

If our team were working at night to provide emergency traffic management, this would reduce the number of staff available to work the following day as they would need to rest.

These are complex issues and need careful consideration by the team.

Outsourcing and monitoring work to contractors

We are not outsourcing our construction services, but due to our limited inhouse resources, we have to look at using external contractors to help us to deliver our work programme. Some very specialist types of work, like streetlighting, require equipment and skills that we don't have inhouse and can be more effectively provided by external contractors. In addition, some types of work are more costly to be done inhouse, which goes against our value for money approach.

We will be using our laboratory team to check the quality of the work undertaken by contractors and our own inhouse team to make sure it meets our specifications.

We have a number of contracts in place with partner organisations across Derbyshire to help us carry out tasks on behalf of the council.

These include the implementation of our streetlighting LED programme, road resurfacing and landslip projects where external partners are able to support us with specialist plant, labour and materials that we don't readily have.

We intend to look at ways to monitor these contracts to ensure work is carried out to the requires standards and frequency.

Monitoring work by our contractors

Works undertaken by external contractors are monitored and supervised by council resources. All works delivered by external providers and the in-house teams will be monitored and tested to ensure work is carried out to the required standards and frequency.

Surface dressing and making good any defects

Some comments were made about the work done by Eurovia as part of last year's surface dressing programme.

These works were managed and supervised by council colleagues, but we can confirm that Eurovia were instructed to make good and repair any sites which did not meet our standards. This work was carried out at cost to Eurovia and not us.

Capital works team

We will continue to undertake capital works, but these have become our business as usual work and are not the large bypasses we used to deliver. We may want to deliver this in a different way going forward.

Future of the highways depots

A review of all our depots is underway to create a long-term plan for their future. The review is managed by our colleagues in property services and we are working closely with them. This is linked to the wider review of all council properties and we will consider any opportunities to reduce our costs by moving away from sites we pay to lease, to sites we own outright.

In the short term, we are looking at some opportunities to create better working environments at our existing sites.

Alongside other depot buildings, the training centre and the laboratory are 2 buildings on our list to improve.

Reducing our carbon emissions and environmentally friendly ways of working

Reducing streetlighting costs and carbon emissions

With energy costs rising, we are looking at ways to save energy and reduce carbon emissions.

We have already reduced lighting levels by converting our lights to LED and introducing dimming where it is safe to do so. Reviews are being undertaken to investigate what more we might be able to do.

Carbon neutral target and carbon reduction plans

We intend to develop best practice standards to draw up carbon footprint targets, to help us reduce carbon emissions, through the use of different materials and ways of working.

As part of our carbon reduction plans, we are using your feedback to review the following points raised:

  • reuse and recycle road materials – we are looking at ways to collect waste materials to reuse in our projects and potential income opportunities for the council
  • improving procedures to fill pothole repairs first time, every time, tackling any underlying causes, to avoid frequent return visits to carry out repairs
  • improving the technology inspectors and repair teams use to easily identify potholes on site as well as those nearby, to maximise site visits by fixing as many potholes as we can in one visit
  • purchasing electric vehicles and larger hydrogen powered vehicles
  • changing how we procure goods and services to select local suppliers to reduce the distance goods have to travel, for example concrete

We recognise that there are some concerns about our use of vehicle trackers. Like other public and private sector businesses, the trackers help us to optimise vehicle use to ensure we are making best use of all vehicles. They also provide us with essential health and safety knowledge to make sure all colleagues are safe and well by providing us with details of where our workforce is in case they need any help or assistance.

We understand that some colleagues have concerns about the types of vehicles we have available and loading limits which can mean that occasionally 2 trips have to be made where one larger vehicle would be more appropriate. We will look at options to help overcome this unnecessary issue.

Procurement and the way we purchase services

Buying goods and services

We will be looking at ways to use local suppliers more when we tender for goods and services and to support local businesses which should also help to reduce our carbon footprint. This will be implemented where value for money demonstrates clear benefits.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

We understand that some colleagues feel the PPE that has been issued has not been appropriate or of suitable quality.

We intend to work with colleagues to make sure we specify the right materials, in any future contracts.

Working with private landowners

Tree and shrub maintenance

Trees on private land are often overgrown and can obscure or damage our infrastructure, for example road signs and traffic lights.

We will work with colleagues to identify these locations and write to landowners to take appropriate action to protect our equipment and help keep our network in a good condition.