The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed £550,000 of extra funding for the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) – a sector-led body that has been widely hailed as driving improvements in the sector.
The cash, which comes from the DfT’s resource budget, covers 2016-2017 and will be used to ‘deliver and firmly embed a new approach for HMEP’ as it moves to a self-sustaining model.
HMEP’s board is making further strides to self-sufficiency and has announced that its intention is to ‘pass ownership of products and services to a small number of leading sector-led partners and organisations’.
Haydn Davies, programme manager for HMEP said: ‘The HMEP board is actively shaping a future operating model. We have identified potential willing and able partners with whom we are developing detailed plans to fund and sustain the support needed by local highways authorities in the longer-term.’
'HMEP, and its innovative solutions already being adopted by many highway authorities and providers to transform roads and services, is a real success story.
‘It’s vital this continues while moving reliance away from central funding. In the future, demand and resources for what the sector needs from HMEP must be generated and delivered from within the sector, ensuring a positive impact is sustained for as long as the sector needs our products and services.’
Launched in the early years of the last coalition government, HMEP received £6m from the DfT to last until March 2015 ‘with the aim of moving to self-sufficiency thereafter’.
This is the second time the DfT has stepped in to keep to programme afloat after, it confirmed a further £500,000 to help HMEP through the 2015-2016 financial year, which was intended to 'complete the move to self-sufficiency'.
However the programme has continued to garner praise throughout the sector for driving efficiencies, and was celebrated again by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), in its latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, which saw the overall road repair backlog across England and Wales come down for the first time in years.
AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie suggested HMEP products and resources were playing a major part in helping highway authorities ‘work smarter with less money’.
This was also backed up by The Road Conditions in England: 2015 report, recently published by DfT, which highlights an overall picture of gradual improvement throughout the austerity years.
The document states: ‘In 2014/15, local authorities reported that 4% of the principal ‘A’ road network in England should have been considered for maintenance, the same as the previous year and 1 percentage point lower than in 2007/08.
'For non-principal classified ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads, 7% of the network should have been considered for maintenance. This was a decrease of one percentage point from 2013/14 and is a lower figure than all previous years for which data have been collected.’
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