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Highways Devolution Local Council Pilot

Image of a country road

Introduction

Essex County Council (ECC) is keen to explore how joint working and devolution between ECC and Parish & Town Councils could deliver better outcomes for Essex residents and businesses. In Autumn 2018, Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader of ECC and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, introduced an initiative to assess how certain Highways services might be delivered via Parish/Town Councils, rather than by the County Council directly.

This page explains more about the highways devolution pilot that Essex County Council is running until February 2020, in partnership with the EALC (Essex Association of Local Councils) and Parish and Town Councils who wish to take part. 

Image showing the combined EALC and Essex County Council Logo
 
  • If you are an Essex Parish or Town Council already signed up to the pilot, you may find this page a useful source of reference information
  • If you are an Essex Parish or Town Council interested in joining the pilot, or a member of the public, use this page to discover more

Background

Essex County Council (ECC) has a legal duty under the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the Essex highways network. ECC currently (2019) meets this duty primarily by commissioning a professional highways services company to manage and deliver most highways maintenance activities. There are also several grant agreements in place with a number of District Councils in Essex, to deliver certain associated highways services.

 

Local Devolution

Each parish and town council in Essex plays a hugely important role within their local community and ECC is working to pilot a shift in power towards local communities. We would like to work collaboratively with the representatives of those local communities, promoting partnership between tiers of local government.

ECC has identified a number of highway maintenance services that could benefit from local delivery. Delivery by a local council would enable quicker response in a more targeted way, as a result of the local community’s own local knowledge and priorities. This could increase local satisfaction, generating increasing greater community pride and helping to focus limited resources where they will add more value. This pilot aims to test such an approach. 

Scope

Working with the Essex Association of Local Councils (EALC), in 2018 Essex County Council announced a pilot scheme to run in 2019/20, from 1 March 2019 until 29 February 2020.

This pilot will devolve a range of highways maintenance responsibilities to Parish or Town councils who are interested in trialling devolution and are prepared to sign an agreement scoping the arrangement.

ECC is also in discussions with District Councils too, for unparished areas.

The service areas being devolved in the pilot are primarily ‘streetscene’ type items – things which if left under-repaired or maintained can significantly disfigure the local environment. However they are also items which have a lower general priority for investment by the County Council and so are less likely to be dealt with in the near future.

Parish and Town Councils who sign up to the pilot are free to choose which combination of the in-scope activities they wish to deliver. There is no obligation to deliver all the activities listed; participating councils may choose which particular services they wish to deliver.

The 2019/20 pilot is grant-funded by ECC. Participating Parishes and Towns may wish to consider topping up funds from their own resources, and / or combine their funding grant with those of neighbouring parishes who may also be participating.

As further background information, ECC have previously published a CMA (‘Cabinet Member Action’) on the pilot.

Activities that are in-scope:
Winter maintenance salt bags scheme (snow clearance and salting of footways and paths)
Footway and off-road cycle ways minor repairs
    Highways verge cutting including special roadside verges
Weed control
Tree and hedge maintenance
Public rights of way (prow) maintenance
Passenger transport infrastructure maintenance (bus stop flags and shelters)
Repair and maintenance of road signs (unlit)

Parishes and Towns who join the pilot may choose which combination of the services listed above that they would like to deliver.

The grant agreement contains detailed guidance as to the scope of the activities listed. If you would like to read the agreement, please request it from the EALC by email, using the link contained in the ‘Contact Us’ section below.

There is also a useful Question and Answer document available, accessible from the ‘Documents’ section of this page. 

Parish or Town Councils who have joined the initiative (as of 6 September 2019)
Abbess, Beauchamp & Berners Roding 
Alresford
Bures 
Earls Colne
Kelvedon
Langley 
Little Clacton
Southminster
St.Osyth
West Bergholt
West Mersea
Witham 

Health and Safety

Ensuring the health and safety of the public, passers-by and people delivering highways works is critical. We want no-one injured or killed by any works to do with our highways. It is also a statutory requirement.

As the formal agreement states, participating councils accept responsibility for ensuring that they shall comply with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and any other relevant acts, orders, regulations and codes of practice relating to health and safety. Suitable insurance is also a requirement of the pilot. An information presentation covering Health and Safety considerations is available for reference.

You can also watch a sequence of information videos covering the importance of safe digging.

 
 
 
 
 

Contact us

  • If you are an Essex Parish or Town already signed up to the 2019/20 pilot programme and have a specific pilot scheme-related question or comment, you can email us at: Highways.localcouncilspilot@essex.gov.uk - Please note that we will not respond to any other topics using this email.
  • If you are a Parish or town Council in Essex who would like to discuss the opportunity to join the pilot, please first contact Rebecca Sheppard at the EALC in the first instance – they can assist you with the initial steps.