Highways are fundamental to any area’s commercial and social infrastructures, providing vital links that help keep local authority environs functioning efficiently. Their effective maintenance and prompt repair are therefore at the forefront of council agendas.
However, as with most local authority departments, both public expectations and demand for services are increasing. This has led to highways services looking for innovative solutions to deliver more using a similar level of resources, whilst retaining a high standard of customer service.
Norfolk CC saw in the Norse model the opportunity, using the Teckal Principle, for highways operations to grow in terms of commercial opportunities, bring efficiency savings and provide access to a more commercial approach without compromising their public service ethos.
Under Norse, team managers have a highly focused approach. They provide comprehensive profit and loss accounts for each part of the service, with internal reporting up to commercial director level. With financial performance carefully monitored, handled and communicated in greater detail, a more commercial culture has developed.
Designed by Norse in conjunction with a specialist software provider, a bespoke planning, scheduling and job costing system has been developed, interfacing with the county council’s Highways Management System. This is a major step in better understanding true costs within highways operations as well as contributing to cost efficiencies and savings.
Norse Highways is agile, with the flexibility to change delivery model and priorities to suit the network; or to change work specifications without the need for a variation process – and its attendant costs. It’s about collaboration as opposed to the rigidity of a traditional client/contractor model.
This agility has been clearly highlighted during the COVID pandemic. Operating under HSE approved, COVID-safe working arrangements, Norse Highways was able to maintain the winter service. COVID pressures, resourcing difficulties and decision-making were dealt with as a single challenge, rather than a client and contractor having three different issues to resolve.
With access to a wider supplier market via Norse’s commercial procurement department, highways can bring in supplementary resources to respond to additional government funding or, with small contracts, to go to market without the restriction of working solely with framework suppliers.
This partnership approach is clearly seen by Norfolk CC as the road forward.
Jason Glasspoole is Operations Director at Norse Highways