Bill Parkes, and Adrian Hampton, Heads of Service, Highways, North and South respectively at Wiltshire Council have recently started publishing a helpful monthly newsletter about Highway matters in the county. The November issue is below.
Date: 28 October 2015 at 15:15
Subject: Bill’s and Adrian’s Local Highway November Newsletter
To: Local Highways South <LocalHighwaysSouth@wiltshire.gov.uk>, Local Highways North <LocalHighwaysNorth@wiltshire.gov.uk>
November 2015 newsletter – General update and feedback on comments from the october newsletter
The council must change the way it operates, not just because central government is reducing funding and the council has to focus on its priority services (adult care, vulnerable persons etc.), but because the demand for its services have changed and continue to change.
These issues are obviously not unique to Wiltshire, as reported recently in the Buckingham Today ‘…the increasing number of lorries using the A43 lay-bys overnight has resulted in a rise in the amount of litter.’ Or in this week’s Farmers Weekly ‘dealing with tipped waste on farming land is estimated to cost the farming community £50m-£100m/ year’. The later article goes on to explain that over two thirds of incidents involve household waste. This is a sad illustration of the challenges faced by all. Household waste can be disposed of free of charge, however, it is being dumped to great cost to the council tax payer and the local community. This is replicated by graffiti, fly posting and many other local anti-social activities.
Personal responsibility is the solution so the work is not produced in the first place. Regrettably changing a national culture is not possible by Wiltshire Council working on its own, it needs central government initiatives. I was pleased to see them act on the plastic bag issue and now hope they will look at other anti-social issues.
Until this happens Wiltshire Council will continue to endeavour to tackle the issues at source. In the next few months Cllr Mr Whitehead, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, will undertake a promotion campaign aimed at increasing litter awareness. This will involve posters at litter areas and school visits. The council will also be writing to businesses reminding them of their legal responsibilities for their and their customer’s waste.
The council will continue to provide loan litter picking equipment and promote self-help services within the communities.
However, there will continue to be considerable demand for council services to ensure the local environment is maintained. The way the council delivers its service is driven by the need and the council must have a flexible service to meet that demand. Last month I issued guidance on the changes in the Local Highway Service. However, to assist everyone I have given more details below to explain what can be expected over the winter months.
The council has received many enquiries about the new service levels and I trust the below will assist.
The majority of services will be prioritised by using the council’s reporting procedures. To report an issue all you have to do is:
- Phone the council on 0300 456 0105; or
- Go to the council’s website – www.wiltshire.gov.uk; or
- Use the new MyWiltshire App
All reports are recorded on one database, which is the App database. Priorities are based upon the information contained on the App database. It is vital that all highway maintenance work (pot holes, fly tipping, litter picking, graffiti issues etc.) is reported by the above methods to ensure it enters the system at the earliest opportunity.
The council’s service levels are:
- Litter Collection
- We will remove litter where present at an unacceptable level (Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse) when reported.
- Road Sweeping
- We will sweep detritus where present at an unacceptable level (Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse) when reported.
- Dead Animals On The Highway
- Remove the carcass for disposal within the statutory timescale. Should the carcass be in a position that is considered a hazard to highway users, more urgent attendance will be arranged.
- Fly Posting
- When reported remove fly posting that is perceive to cause a highway nuisance.
- If offensive graffiti is reported we will remove it or it will be obscured by either over-painting or via another suitable method within an accelerated timeframe.
- Fly Tipping
- When reported arrange the collection and disposal within the statutory timeframe.
- Highway Defects
- The council’s response to highway defects is stated in its Inspection Manual.
- For defects not covered by the inspection manual, the council monitors the condition, Where discretionary works are required (street name plates, non-safety barriers, signs, lining etc.) the council endeavours to complete works at the earliest opportunity. However, due to the priority of statutory and safety works, the time taken for such repairs can be over twelve months.
- The council empties identified high risk gullies (risk of house flooding or highway safety) every twelve months to prevent flooding.
- Gullies that are blocked that are anticipated to cause flooding on high speed roads or to houses will receive additional empties on a priority bases.
- Non-safety drainage issues will be left to when resources allow.
- Dog mess
- Dog mess is classed as litter. When present at an unacceptable standard (a number of deposits, or dog mess combine with litter at one location) the council has a duty to clear the dog mess.
- Needles and Syringes
- Needles and Syringes on the highway or amenity land will be cleared when reported as an emergency response.
The council continues to undertake a number of scheduled services, I detail them below:
- Grass cutting Operations
- Our rural grass cutting takes place once a year and normally takes around six weeks to complete of identified verges. Rural verges are cut to ensure maximum visibility at junctions and also to keep the full width of the carriageway available at all times.
- Our urban grass is maintained to the prevailing weather conditions throughout the year which will impact upon the rate of grass growth and the need for the areas to be maintained. The majority of the urban grass in Wiltshire is amenity grass which we endeavour to cut once a month (this would include cemetery grass) during the growing season.
- Sports pitches will be maintained at the amenity cut standard. If clubs wish to use pitches they will fund the increased cost of maintenance.
- Hedge Maintenance
- The majority of hedges boarding public highway are privately owned. Hedges on property boundaries are the responsibility of the property land owner to maintain.
- The small number of council owned hedges on amenity land will be cut to ensure health and safety is maintained during the autumn/winter period following the bird nesting season.
- Shrub Maintenance
- Council maintained shrubs on amenity land will be maintained on a priority bases when resources allow, during the autumn/winter period.
- Litter Bins
- The council provides a limited number of litter bins across the county with a frequency of emptying based upon their location.
- Weeds and spraying operations
- We work hard to control invasive and other types of weeds on council land and the highway network. Weeds include Brambles, Ragwort and Japanese Knotweed etc. We will take action depending on the nature of the weed. We will use mechanical cutting of these weeds where allowed as the most cost effective way to control weed growth.
- Proactive spraying of a small areas in town centres and identified residential areas is undertaken to control weed growth.
The council also allows the local town or parish council the opportunity to continue to fund services that it no longer provides. Examples of these services would include:
- Benches and Seats
- Benches and seats that are located on council land will be maintained to ensure that they are safe.
- As and when existing benches and seats become damaged or unsafe to be used they will be removed from site.
- Local town and parish councils will be allowed to replace any bench or seat that has been removed but will be responsible for the cost of any replacement and future maintenance costs.
- Play Area inspections and Maintenance
- All council play areas will be inspected on a regular basis in line with current best practice to ensure that that the play equipment, safety surfacing, public seats, gates and perimeter fencing (where installed) is safe for children to use.
- Regular maintenance will be undertaken to keep all equipment safe for children to use. As an item of play equipment reaches the end of its serviceable life, it will be removed from site to ensure that it does not constitute a hazard.
- Local town and parish councils will be allowed to replace any equipment that has been removed.
- Bus Shelters
- The council is responsible for a number of bus shelters. However, there are bus shelters on our highway network that are actually owned by other organisations:
o Parish / Town Councils (own and maintain most bus shelters except those erected by us).
o Adshel owns and maintains some shelters with advertising displays in Wiltshire.
- Damage to our bus shelters will be made safe and broken glass, etc. removed. Where damage is of a nature that the shelter becomes beyond economic repair, the shelter will be removed. The town or parish council will be given the opportunity to fund the repair and maintenance of any damaged shelter.
I trust this clearly details the service to be provided.
ATTENDANCE AT the Society of Local Council Clerks branch meeting
Bill and I have been invited to attend the Society of Local Council Clerks branch meeting to be held at Warminster Civic Centre, Sambourne Road, Warminster, Wilts BA12 0LB on Friday 20th November, at 10.00am for a 10.30am start.
We attended the same meeting last year and were very well received.
Bill and I intend to replicate the format of that presentation and have a general discussion on the Local Highway Service and the changes in 2015.
As a guest speaker the presentation will last about 40 minutes, with a further 20 minutes for questions/answers/discussion.
Bill and I are not planning to attend the Community Area Boards to discuss the issues, as the budget setting process for 2016/ 17 will impact on services and hence we need to understand these implications before commencing our formal Communication Plan.
We already have some provisional dates in our diaries for next year, in May and June, to meet with all the town and parish councils direct to discuss all the new arrangements.
However, until that time we would be delighted to see you at the SLCC branch meeting on the 20th November 2015. If you are unable to attend do not worry we will capture the questions and answers for issue in December 2015. We understand that this is a meeting for clerks only, not councillors, and non SLCC members are very welcome to attend. Please contact the Branch Secretary, Catherine Purves email@example.com,uk for further details.”
Wiltshire Council holds industrAIL day for the new highway contract commening next april
The current Wiltshire Highways and Streetscene Contract is to end in March 2016
Separate arrangements have been made for streetscene, grounds maintenance, grass cutting, litter picking. These contracts will run to 2020 and will not be included in the new Highways contract.
Arrangements are now in place for major road resurfacing and surface dressing and likewise will not be included in the new Highways contract.
Highways Consultancy contract awarded to Atkins December 2012 remains in place and again will not be included in the new Highways contract.
The new Highways contract will:
- Start April 2016
- Last for 5 years, with up to 2 year extension subject to performance.
- Contract will be open to Swindon Borough Council.
- Potential annual value of about £15,000,000
The services included are:
- Local Highways (With the exception of grounds and litter collection)
- Winter and Emergency Service
- Drainage Surveys and repairs
- Street Lighting
- Bridge Maintenance
- Integrated Transport Schemes
- Highway Maintenance (with the exception of road resurfacing and surface dressing)
Local Highway Services included in detail:
- Parish Stewards
- Pothole Gangs
- Masonry repairs
- Weed spraying
- Signs maintenance
- Gully emptying
- Road markings and studs
- Street sweeping
- Deliver winter maintenance
- Operate Council’s gritters
- Operate snow ploughs
- Deployment of operatives for clearing snow and ice.
- Respond to flood events
- Respond to other emergencies
parish and town council additional works
The council has received a number of requests for town and parish councils wishing to undertake additional works.
These works would include:
- Replacing bus shelter glass
- Relocating litter bins
- Extra grounds arrangements
- Replacing play equipment
The council is happy to comment and approve (were possible) these works. The town and parish councils would then be responsible for arranging and funding these works direct with the approved supplier/ contractor.
Wiltshire Council invests in six tractors
Wiltshire Council has bought six new tractors that will be used all year round to undertake vital highway maintenance activities and in the winter to help clear the snow from roads and paths.
The tractors which are painted in special highway yellow. They will become a familiar site on the county’s roads this autumn as they commenced full operations in September 2015. They will undertake reactive activities such as: cutting grass on high risk junctions; maintaining drainage channels and trimming hedges.
They will be used to support the new reactive maintenance arrangements being introduced by the council. The concept is that they will be used to address identified issues maximising their effectiveness.
Public convenience Consultation
I am writing to give an update on the public convenience consultation and provide a little more background to aid in the understanding of the council’s current position.
I would first like to state the council is considering all options. Any closure of a facility would be a last resort.
The council has also historically transferred many public toilet facilities to local interest groups. I know one that made an office out of part of the building, but continued with a public toilet access. This maximised the use of the facility and improved the provision.
Many local groups have requested the running of other adjacent facilities next to the toilets as this has benefited them.
Wiltshire Council has also been in discussions with many other councils about the possible future transfer of other facilities.
We have also ended up with a grouping of toilets with many toilets provided in close proximity (Warminster, Westbury, Melksham, Salisbury, Devizes etc.) and the other areas with no council provision, with all the facilities provided and funded by other groups. The current provision is inconsistent and not based upon any planned approach. Hence the future provision needs to be considered.
As we all know Wiltshire Council, with the reduction in central government funding, is having to make difficult decisions and every budget reduction will affect a service provision in some manner.
Wiltshire Council quite rightly is protecting vital services (Public Health, the vulnerable, children services etc.). However, the knock on effect is that there is no allocated funds to the council’s Public Convenience Service this year and any future provision will be made on this understanding.
The council will need to wait until the end of the consultation before it can comment on any decision. However, there are many options that can continue the provision. These facilities bring benefits to the local areas and there is an argument, for fairness, the provision and funding should be consistent across the county, with this being through the remaining small number of town and parish councils that have yet to take on the provision. Or through the provision by local businesses or community groups.
As we all know, whether Wiltshire Council fund the provision or the local parish/ town the same tax payers contribute. As many parish and town councils fund this service already in their precept we are challenged by them on why others receive a service provided by Wiltshire Council.
It is important to consider all the options during the consultation. When the findings of the consultation have been considered the council will advise on the future of the service.
USE OF COUNCIL CAR PARKS FOR EXTERNAL EVENTS
There has recently been some confusion over the charging for the use of car parks for events. To aid all I list the council’s policy:
Wiltshire Council are happy to assist with organised events where possible. Where those events involve closure or part closure of car parks or parking areas the appropriate fees must be paid. The Cabinet Member for Highways reserves the right to waiver any or all fees should he wish to do so. This could include but is not limited to Registered Charities and events of historical importance to Wiltshire.
Scale of fees
Bay suspensions – £20 per bay per day
Full Closure of parking area – Determined by loss of income for the period required.
The charges cover the cost of administration, enforcement and any potential loss of income to Wiltshire Council.
For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrian & Bill