Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Board, discussing a highways service peer review, heard this would be a good example of drawing on the community’s local knowledge in such situations.
Coun Roisin Cavanagh asked if these would be along the lines of Flood Wardens, volunteers who have developed an important role, a link between council and community when the borough has been threatened by flooding.
Head of Neighbourhoods, Andrew Pitts, said the roles would be another example of people offering to help look after their local environment and adding value to the council’s services, with the council gritting 60 per cent of the road network, higher than many other local authorities.
It was a policy being developed despite possible concerns in other parts of the council over concerns about the safety of volunteers.
“I personally think that’s not the case and the challenges are here for us to deal with,” he said.
The peer review said the directorate performed strongly across strategic planning and investment but there the potential for considering further its use of staff and technology and could sharpen up customer focus and responsiveness.
It was an opportunity to review policy and practice, councillors were told.
Findings were broken down into a series of recommendations and these, in turn, have been set out in an action plan.
Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park), said the council thought it could do better interacting with people, for example, someone reporting an issue like a street light out being informed of the work’s progress.
Corporate lead for green spaces, Jonathan Cole, said an online form had been developed which if a person added their email address, progress would be updated to them, including when the job was completed.
Coun Cavanagh (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said staff retention seemed to be a big obstacle with other authorities able to offer higher salaries.
Head of Highways and Transportation, Steven Lee, said the council was offering better training, focusing on graduate engineers who had a bit more experience and taking them to full chartered engineer status.
Mr Lee also outlined several techniques and pieces of equipment being introduced including IT equipment which would allow the council’s vehicles to investigate road conditions around the borough in terms of maintenance requirements.