Neighbourhoods and roads

I thought that I’d lead with our annual meeting with the representatives of the county’s Parish Councils. This event has sometimes, in the past, been characterised by some tension. Chaired by Mike Lawrence, this year’s was a very useful discussion about how we are going to work together in the new realities of the public sector in Staffordshire. The fact is that we are being asked to do more with less by central government, and we are having the same conversations with district and parish councils – anything else would be disingenuous. Much of what the parish councillors are interested in lies in the Highways department, but they were happy to extend the conversation into the health, social care and families area. We will work with them, and it should probably be on a more regular and less formal arrangement, to ensure that we use their excellent local knowledge and wish to live in great neighbourhoods to its greatest effect.

There has been much discussion around the Infrastructure Plus arrangement with Amey these past few weeks. I think that we probably need to tell the story a bit more effectively than we are at the moment. Darryl Eyers, James Bailey and I had a very useful meeting with Amey’s senior leadership, who are totally committed to making a success of this ground-breaking arrangement. There is a lot going on: the online reporting system is now fully up and running, and linked to the tasking process for the repair crews; we have new equipment in the form of a velocity patcher (a large “gas-fired hair dryer” which dries and heats the pothole before blasting molten tar and gravel into it – don’t try this at home!); the survey of the 190,000 drain gulleys is complete and is about to drive the maintenance schedule on the basis of need, rather than routine. We will set up visits for Members in the coming weeks to get the message out, and look to get other events which help residents to understand the realities of road maintenance, in which I’ve found that everybody considers themselves an expert. More to do, but the fundamentals are already there.

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