The latest newsletter from Highways – September 2016

The September Update:

Local Highways Restructure

The restructuring of the Local Highway Service nears completion.

I list below the appropriate contract procedures to ensure reports are made to the right place first time, as the new structure is based upon this understanding:
• For general maintenance issues all reports will need to be entered onto the MyWiltshire System.

• Safety issues must immediately be phoned to the council, as the App is only attended to in office hours.

• Local improvement works are to be raised at the Community Area Transport Group.

• Priority setting for the annual road maintenance program is undertaken through the Community Area Boards.

• Discretionary highway maintenance work is to be undertaken through the Parish Steward Scheme (if other work is placed on the sheet your Engineer will advise you of the appropriate reporting method).

• Onsite discretionary highway issues can be raised with the Parish Steward during their visit for them to report back to the local highway office.

• Strategic priority issues can be raised with the local engineer. For example:

o if you wish the council not to cut a rural highway verge
o Wish to set up a local agreement for the parish/ town council to undertake maintenance.
o Etc.
I trust it very clear but the service responsibilities are:
1. Highway hard area maintenance and highway safety – Highway Structure
2. Streetscene maintenance (land on the below web link) – Streetscene Structure
3. Parking Issue – Parking Services
4. Emergency/ Reactive Services – Winter and Emergency Services

The Coordinator post has been deleted and is no-longer a contact point for parish or town councils.

Weed Control

The council has commenced its second weed spray of identified town highway areas. Only identified highway footways will be treated. This should be completed over the next six weeks.

The council’s first weed treatment was successful and we trust that the weather will be kind and allow the second spray to be as productive.

No other weed treatment is undertaken. The Parish Steward Scheme can be used to address highway weed issues next year if this is a priority for your Highway Representative. Amenity areas are not treated.

Trowbridge and Wiltshire Councils Work Together

Trowbridge Town Council arranged the Probationary Service to undertake various improvement and maintenance work on Wiltshire Council’s property in and around Trowbridge. Wiltshire Council were delighted to supply the materials to support the town council. If your town or parish is looking at initiatives to improve the local highway asset, please talk to your local Engineer to see how we can support with advice, equipment or materials.

Parish Steward Scheme

The countdown to October and the commencement of the Parish Steward Scheme continues with what appears to be ever increasing pace.

Recruitment processes allowing you will be advised of your Steward’s details in September.

Please if you have not already provided your Highway Representative details and your top five priority please do so. These should now be reported to the Highway Engineer for your area.

The Parish Steward Scheme is designed to deal with the local community’s discretionary priorities. Hence if we are to maximise the Steward’s benefits we need your information to focus their efforts.

You are also reminded that the Priority Sheets are for Parish Steward discretionary works only. If other works are placed on the sheet the Engineer will advise you of the appropriate method for reporting those works. But the correct reporting routes have been explained in the restructure section above.

Winter Hedge and Shrub Maintenance

For many years now the council has had to prioritise the work undertaken on its amenity hedges and shrubs (please see attached link for the amenity asset in question) as we do not have the resources to cut back every amenity plant (for clarification we are not talking about highway hedges or plants, these are maintained by the Parish Steward if a local priority).

If there is a particular hedge or shrub you feel is a local priority to receive a visit this winter please could you let your Streetscene Engineer know. Obviously it is not possible to maintain every area, but we will endeavour to address any area you identify.

Autumn and Winter Services

Have you a Flooding Plan?

Have you a Snow Plan?

With the increase in adverse weather events and the forecasters advising us that weather emergencies will be with us now and into the future, Wiltshire Council is encouraging local councils and residents to plan for every eventuality.

It is impossible for Wiltshire Council to be in all places.

The changes in the types of weather also bring increased challenges. With larger rainfalls comes the risk of flooding as a simple result of the volume of water being over the current drainage system capacity. Local self-help is the only solution.

Leaves fall across the county at the same time of year blocking drain covers; snow falls on all highways in one event causing access and surface issues; heavy rain causes rivers to flood and ground water levels to rise creating major scale issues over large areas.

Wiltshire Council has plans for such events, but they prioritise resources and this will mean low priority areas are left to when resources allow them to be dealt with.

If residents and local councils fail to plan, then we must accept that we all plan to fail. We have been forewarned, so let us all be forearmed for when the eventually happens and a weather event in our back garden occurs. Wiltshire Council will be pleased to assist wherever if can with support and advice.

The Budget!

The detailed budget position will be known later this calendar year and confirmed in early 2017/ 18. However, we know that increases in spending are very unlikely. We also know that this year there are already financial challenges for services and this will mean that service priorities will change to maintain statutory provision next year. Hence I ask that all town and parish councils consider in funding their local precept those locally discretionary services that are important to them.

Readers of my Newsletter will have seen many of the local councils have already taken on services. These have included:
• Play Area Provision
Wiltshire Council has 184 play areas, most of which is an old stock and in need of replacing. We simply do not have the funding to replace equipment, but will ensure areas are maintained in a safe order. This will mean that areas are closed for safety reasons. Over 50 play areas were transferred to town and parishes last year.

• Closed Church Yard Maintenance – Grass cutting was changed to a monthly cut this year. The council realises the emotions that are attached to these areas. However, when grounds maintained is viewed against other vital services it is unlikely to be a priority. Melksham Town Council funded additional cuts, with many other councils maintaining the local provision.

• Litter Bin Provision And Emptying – Sadly litter bin provision is simply not addressing the litter issue as we continue to direct services to physical litter collection from our streets. If you want litter bins in your areas, this is a provision you may wish to consider. Pewsey, Chippenham etc. all provided additional scheduled cleaning services.

• Grass cutting – Grass cutting in 2017/ 18 will be at best on an every four week cut. If you wish more frequent cutting this is a provision you should consider. Either as a top up service or better still and Asset Transfer or Service Delegation. Devizes and Melksham Town Council funded additional cuts, when a large number of asset transfers and service delegations in addition being undertaken.

• Weed Treatment – Identified areas in town centres will receive one to two treatments a year next year. The Parish Steward Scheme will then provide all additional treatments if a local propriety. This will mean many areas remain untreated. You may like to consider this service.
I hope this gives you some guidance in the considerations for your precept.

Next Year’s Rural Verge Cut

The Council has just completed the review of this year’s rural verge cutting arrangements.

Whilst I know you will all have a view on the verge cut timings, this is a decision of safety and Wiltshire Council must justify any resulting risk.

However, as you will be aware the council cuts a number of verges as historically practice. The council continues to identify these areas and, if safe to do so, removes them from the cutting frequency. I am sure you are aware that there are many environmental groups that rightly challenge the council on its decision to cut certain areas, also we should not be cutting areas not requiring attention.

If you are aware of any areas, that for safety reason, could be removed from the cutting programme the council would be grateful for this information.

Litter Collection

Wiltshire Council in 2016/ 17 has increased its budget for litter collection to £2.5million.

The council is also supported by numerous voluntary groups that undertake litter collection activities throughout the year.

The £2.5million funding for litter collection could be avoided altogether if people simply took their litter home and disposed of it in their household bins.

Imagine how many local buses, or libraries, or youth centres could be funded with this money if only people did not litter, or how much more the voluntary groups could achieve with all those additional hours.

Regrettably educating the small minority of people that insist on throwing their litter into the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, causing an eyesore and creating environmental issues for natural wildlife, will take time.

Sadly it is the council’s experience the provision of additional litter bins has little effect in reducing litter illegally deposited. As an example the council has many hundreds of litter bins in town centres, but still needs to collect litter from these areas daily. The council must increase the allocation of resources to meet the increasing demands of illegally deposited litter. It is with regret that the council cannot allocate new bins or replace unused bins as the collection resources are better utilised on litter collection itself. However if a town or parish council wish to provide a litter bin the council will be pleased to assist in this matter.

So the council is left with the expensive task of collecting litter. The council tries to minimise the cost of collecting litter by scheduling services to work with other operations.

However rest assured we:
• Have increased the funding (by £500k);
• Are using MyWiltshire reports to ensure every hour of operation is maximised and focused on collecting litter;
• Are working with our highway partners (Highways England, Atkins, Tarmac, Ringway etc.) to use their road closures to undertake litter collection work, saving traffic management funding;
• Are working with partners such as the Probation Service to use other available resources;
• Are engaging with the voluntary section for them to assist in the litter collection operation (we have a number of groups undertaking scheduled work):
• Are engaging with businesses to support in cleansing activities (Salisbury BID being a good example);
• Will service delegate services to town and parish councils;
• Will allow town and parish councils to fund ‘top up’ services if they wish a higher standard;
• Do participate and support national litter picking campaigns, such as Clean for the Queen.
• Will assist town and parish councils to undertake enforcement of litter offences themselves.
• Will take action again litters where there is sufficient evidence.

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