Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.
20.1 The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services introduced the report. ESCC has been an early adopter of the asset management approach, which is now linked to the Department of Transport (DfT) incentive funding. The incentive funding was introduced in 2014 and is assessed by a set of 22 self-assessment questions which are submitted to DfT each year. Evidence is required to support the assessment and the submission is verified by the Council’ Section 151 Officer, the Chief Finance Officer. If the Council had not achieved band 3 status, it would have lost £1.73 million of DfT revenue funding from the incentive fund.
20.2 It was clarified that in order to achieve band 3 funding the Council has to meet band 3 in 18 out of 22 questions. Currently the Council has been assessed as achieving band 3 in 19 out of the 22 questions. The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services outlined that the Council has achieved band 3 so will not drop down to band 2 funding levels, and the Team are working on the remaining questions to be guaranteed band 3 status in future. It is likely that the Council will be able to achieve band 3 scores in resilient network and drainage. The final area is developing longer term forward programmes of work. At present there are well developed forward work programmes in some areas such as carriageway repairs, but there are others where more work is needed.
20.3 The Assistant Director Operations added that in future the incentive funding may be linked to the Well Managed Highways Infrastructure Code of Practice. The Council is in a good position should this be the case. The early adoption of an asset management approach by the Council is paying dividends and has enabled the Council to maintain 100% of the available DfT funding.
20.4 The Committee discussed the report on the Highway Asset Plan and the DfT incentive funding. The following points were made during the discussion of the report.
· The information for the DfT incentive funding has to be submitted annually at the end of the financial year.
· The road network classifications used in the road network hierarchy are reviewed at regular intervals and the Team Manager, Asset Management confirmed that the Team are currently updating road network hierarchy.
· It was clarified that concrete roads in appropriate conditions (e.g. housing / industrial estates with low statutory undertakers renewals) have a long lifespan, but they take much longer to construct due to curing times and are difficult to repair, so this method is rarely used outside of motorways and industrial estates.
· The resurfacing programme usually employs around three teams to carry out resurfacing across the County.
· Thin surfacing (e.g. surface dressing) and other specialist treatments like jet patching usually involves using specialist equipment which is delivered using one team to carry out a programme of work once a year, usually during summertime due to materials being temperature sensitive.
· The Council does use night time working for busy roads, but this costs more and there are limitations on working at night due to need to undertake the work at the right temperature and humidity levels.
· The Highways Team do react quickly to reports of road subsidence via the Contact Centre and will send a Steward to investigate. If an emergency repair is needed then it will be carried out.
· Officers are aware of the issue on the A259 at Rushy Hill where there is a long term problem with carriageway movement. It requires significant investment to investigate and resolve this problem, but in the meantime the condition of this section of road will be monitored. The situation in Rodmill Drive, Eastbourne is under investigation as the work is still under guarantee.
20.5 The Committee commented that when a surfacing request is passed to the Asset Management Team by the Highway Steward, there is often little feedback on whether or when the work will be done. It would be helpful if Local Members could have some feedback from referrals made by the Highway Steward. The Assistant Director Operations agreed to investigate finding a better way of informing Local Members about planned and referred work.
20.6 The Committee welcomed the amount of resurfacing work that is taking place across the County. However it became apparent during the discussion of the Asset Management Plan that some members of the public, Parish Councils, ESCC Councillors and Place Scrutiny Committee members not involved with the recent Scrutiny Review of Road Repairs, do not have a clear understanding of the prioritisation process used in the Asset Management Plan. For example, how work programmes are developed; the different maintenance techniques used and; why some sections of road are resurfaced or surface dressed and others nearby are not. A better understanding would enable Local Members to explain the approach to their constituents and local communities.
20.7 The Assistant Director Operations offered to repeat the presentation on the asset management approach that was given to Scrutiny Review of Road Repairs review board. It was explained that sometimes the Highways Team may carry out thin surfacing on a reasonable section of road (preventative treatment) rather than full resurfacing (which is a more expensive treatment) of a poor section of road in order to prolong the life of the better road and stop it falling into poor condition. Road surfaces that are on cusp of becoming brittle and breaking down can be treated to rejuvenate them. In these situations it is possible to still see the road markings after the treatment as the treatment penetrates rather than covers the existing surface material. Whereas surfacing dressing which involves spraying liquid bitumen and then rolling chippings into the surface will obscure the road markings unless they are masked off.
20.8 Some Committee members stated that they would like more communications and information for Local Members on work programming and how we are prioritising work. The Assistant Director Operations explained that the Members guide that is currently on the intranet and that was sent to all Councillors clarifies these issues. There is also a wealth of information on ESCC website and a public version of the Members guide is available which can be used with Parish, Borough and District councils, and Strengthening Local Resources (SLR) meetings. It was also clarified that a link to the recent video made on the resurfacing and surfacing dressing programme was sent to all Councillors. The Highways Team not only repair roads that need resurfacing, but also following an evidence based asset management approach, focus on preventative work to reduce the need for more expensive work in the future.
20.9 The Lead Member for Transport and Environment commented that it appeared that there is a need to provide more information on asset management to the whole Committee. It would be helpful if the Committee could have the same presentation as the Road Repairs Review Board. She suggested sending a link to the Members highways guide to all Councillors and to re-send a link to the video on the surfacing programme. The Assistant Director Operations confirmed that he could re-run presentation after the end of the next Committee meeting and could re-send the links to all Members. The Committee agreed to have a presentation on the asset management approach after the next Committee meeting on 20 November 2019.
20.10 The Committee commented that the Council appeared to be quite good at repairing A roads, but unclassified roads seemed to be falling behind in terms of planned repair work. Most Councillors are not getting a positive response from Stewards on the repair of unclassified roads. The Assistant Director Operations responded that work is prioritised for A and B roads as they carry the most traffic, but the Council does undertake work on other roads such as unclassified roads. For instance, Cabinet agreed an extra £5 million investment in the capital programme for 2 years for unclassified roads, which has led to an improvement in their condition as measured by the percentage in need of repair.
20.11 The Committee asked for clarification on the way the asset management approach is applied to pavements. The Assistant Director Operations responded that the Team applies same process to pavements as it does to roads, but the budget is much bigger for carriageways, hence the appearance that less planned pavement repairs are undertaken. Pavements are maintained on a priority basis in accordance with the agreed policy. In the last year £800,000 was spent on pavements in Eastbourne out of a total budget of £1.6million. The Scrutiny Committee can recommend more money is spent on pavements, but it would need to identify where this additional expenditure would come from, as the Council cannot always borrow more money to fund capital expenditure due to the capital financing impact on the revenue budget.
20.12 The Committee RESOLVED to note the role of the Asset Plan in Highway’s Asset Management approach and how this is evidenced to meet the DfT incentive fund requirements.