Could roadworks delays become a thing of the past in Calderdale?
Well, they might if a reorganisation of two Calderdale Council departments takes place.
While many roadworks are utility driven and not likely to go away, staff reorganisation could see borough-related roadworks much reduced.
Early in the new year the council’s Cabinet will be asked to look at proposals which would integrate the council’s Highway Maintenance and Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams into one to produce more streamlined results and use available resources more effectively.
Or, as the council’s Neighbourhoods lead Andrew Pitts told members of the authority’s Place Scrutiny Board, they might hear the phrase “it’s coned off again” much less often.
Mr Pitts used the analogy of members of the public reporting roadworks re-appearing in instances where the Highways team had done their bit, only for the Safer, Cleaner, Greener team to put roadworks back up to do their job.
“What we want to do is stop that. We want to get in there to cut the grass, pick up litter, deal with potholes sand clean the gulleys with just one set of traffic management – it’s win-win,” he said.
He outlined proposals to unite the two departments who would have some first-contact decision-making powers to deal with issues, amount to around 120 “boots on the ground” to get jobs done.
Both teams had specialisms but had much in common, and there were potential savings for the council from shared resources, for example such as health and safety, where all could train on one course instead of having too, and winter maintenance, where equipment used by one department currently could be modified and also used for work usually done by the other.
Three newly united area teams would operate each having the skills and flexibility to deal with anything that was thrown at them, said Mr Pitts, and a business case was being explored for a “night team.”
The proposals largely met with councillors’ approval, with some caveats over the effect on members of staff in terms of job numbers, whether they would be forced to work nights and some who relied on “stand-by” payments to make up their wage.
Coun Bryan Smith (Lab, Ovenden) and Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) both raised questions about those issues, the latter saying the changes achieved had to be through agreement. In some cases, staff “are not highly paid and out-of-hours payments are important.”
Mr Pitts said proposals were at a proposal stage yet and if it was decided to proceed staff would be consulted formally.
And in the case of a night team, they would be specifically recruited for that with funding possibly coming from “stand-by” payments.
Although there would be one less senior management post, otherwise “there will not be any job losses,” he said.
Coun Regan Dickenson (Con, Rastrick) said the changes exemplified a streamlined working “can-do” mentality.
Coun Amanda Parson-Hulse (Lib Dem, Warley) said: “I have a lot of people saying to me ‘why can’t they do that at the same time’. It’s fantastic.”
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) told the board: “It will save money, make us more efficient and most importantly will improve the quality of service to our people.”
Benefit of a night team was that it meant night inspections could be reinstated as part of their role, meaning the council would not have to reply on members of the public reporting street lights that were out when it was dark, for example.
Coun Roger Taylor (Con, Northowram and Shelf) welcomed this sort of “pavement politics” – “things that people can see.” He welcomed the proposals but reminded officers where staff were concerned that “the night shift can be hard.”
A Unison representative said there had been a lot of information to take in and matters would certainly need discussing with colleagues – but in general endorsed the proposals. “We are not looking to get in the way of this – it’s about collaborative working,” he said.
Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden), said changes would be made in consultation with the unions and the council would not be asking existing staff to change their lives.
Board chair Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said he echoed comments made and wanted to hear more once Cabinet had seen the proposals. “This is a real step forward,” he said.