Transport minister Andrew Jones is set to make an official announcement on the future of the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) in the coming weeks, as the Government seeks to put the scheme on a more sustainable footing.
HMEP said it is still finalising the details of the plans but revealed it would soon be devolving responsibility for different aspects of the programme to separate partners.
The National Highways and Transport Network – a subscriber-based, service improvement organisation best known for the NHT Public Satisfaction Survey - will take responsibility for HMEP’s Connect and Share resource.
The Local Government Association (LGA) will take control of the strategic peer review programme it developed with HMEP, and the asset management and procurement products HMEP has made freely available will be passed to Local Partnerships - a joint venture between HM Treasury and the LGA.
Engagement and communications for the programme will be handled by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, HMEP said.
HMEP advocate Jason Russell, assistant director highways at Surrey County Council, told Transport Network that the HMEP documents would still remain free to use, and he hoped the new system would present councils with even more support.
He said the different stakeholders would have a duty work together to present a coherent service to local highways authorities.
The stakeholders would be helped in this by a central steering group, whose membership is still being finalised. Mr Russell revealed it would likely include the DfT, albeit in a slightly changed role, local authority representatives, private sector representatives, and representatives of professional industry bodies.
The news comes as HMEP announced recent updates to its suite of documents on procurement, contracting and standardisation.
The first includes an updated Collaborative Contracting Strategy, which now provides guidance and analysis on a risk-based approach to highways – covering risk, the impact risks might have and mitigation of risks.
This is in line with government plans to publish a new highways maintenance code of practice by the end of the year, which will encourage local authorities to take a risk-based approach without any national standards.
HMEP has also updated the Standard Form of Contract for Highway Maintenance with new versions of the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and the Instruction for Tenderers, in line with the publication of the Public Contract Procurement Regulations 2015.
‘However a further update is required for the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, and HMEP is delaying publication of its updated guidance until it has been reviewed against PAS91:2016 (due for release imminently),’ it said in a statement.
Since being established in the early years of the coalition, the government-funded but sector-led HMEP has formed a key plank of ministerial efforts to improve the highways sector.
The programme received £6m from the Department for Transport (DfT), which was to last until March 2015 ‘with the aim of moving to self-sufficiency thereafter’.
Since then DfT has stepped in twice to provide extra funding to keep the programme going.
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