Agenda Item 2

HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

Decision Report

Decision Maker:

Executive Member for Recreation, Heritage and Communities

Date of Decision:

19 March 2009

Decision Title:

Rights of Way -Transforming Customer Experience

Decision Reference:

621

Report From:

Director of Recreation and Heritage

Contact Name:

Andrew Smith, Assistant Head of the Countryside Service,

Telephone:

01962 846003

E-mail:

andrew.t.smith@hants.gov.uk

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1) Summary of Decision Area

1.1. Hampshire County Council Treasurers' Consultancy have recently completed a review and analysis of the way in which reports of problems on the rights of way network are made to the County Council and how these reports are then managed. The Consultant's report includes a proposed action plan to respond to the areas for improvement which have been identified. Some of these actions can be relatively quickly and inexpensively implemented, others will require further research and the development of a business case. This report seeks Executive Member support for the work that has been undertaken to date and approval for taking forward the proposed actions. The Executive Summary of the Consultancy Report and the Action Plan are appended to this Report.

2) Issues Covered in Report

2.1. The report explains the work that has been undertaken to date and how the review of the rights of way fault report process has been undertaken. The Review's main findings, recommendations and action plan are all included within the appendix to this report. The full report has been previously circulated but contains financial information provided by other organisations and therefore is not intended to be made publicly available at this stage.

3) Recommendations

3.1. the Executive Member for Recreation, Heritage and Communities welcomes the review of the Rights of Way fault reporting process undertaken by the Treasurers' Consultancy and supports its findings.

3.2. the recommendations described in the report's conclusion and action plan are implemented, including, where appropriate, that a further analysis of the business case for change be undertaken.

MAIN REPORT

1) Contextual Information

1.1. The Rights of Way (RoW) service manages and maintains a public rights of way network of 4,573 km across the County of Hampshire. It has a high profile as a key area that the local community use, enjoy and report on.

1.2. The County Council's Rights of Way maintenance and protection role is a statutory function operating primarily under section 130 of the Highways Act 1980. This requires the service to "assert and protect" the rights of way for public use and enjoyment, incorporating maintenance of the network, and enforcement of its proper use and access; along with improvement and development to enhance the network for the public.

1.3. The following points represent the key issues which have prompted this review:

1.4. The focus of this review is therefore on the fault reporting and resolution process, from the first point of contact by the public to the point at which the fault has been completed by the maintenance team on the ground and the fault report case closed.

1.5. The review process has been undertaken by the HCC Treasurers' Consultancy, using the Treasurers' Consultancy's established methodology, working to a Core Project Team led by the Countryside Service. The aim of the Consultancy Project was "To optimise the Rights of Way business processes and organisation in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and quality of customer service." The Core Project Team included officers from the Countryside Service, Hantsdirect and the Chair of the Hampshire Countryside Access Forum.

1.6. The methodology followed for the project is set out in the full Consultancy Report. It has included the following aspects:

2) Key Issues

2.1. The review of current working practices has highlighted a range of issues which centre, in the main, on the need to innovate the current fault reporting and resolution process in order to:

3) Outline of Options

3.1. A future way of working for rights of way fault reporting and the resolution process has been designed to address the identified issues. The briefing paper, containing a summary of this review and the recommendations, was taken to the Hampshire Countryside Access Forum on 11 February 2009 to determine their views on the proposals. Whilst recognising that some of the proposals have significant funding implications, the Forum enthusiastically supported the recommendations, with particular reference to the need for an IT system, improved feedback, managing expectations, working more with volunteers within appropriate health and safety requirements and support for the proactive approach.

3.2. There are three key strands to the improvements which are proposed:

a) Improving the internal process and the customer experience through developments to Hantsdirect/Lagan to eliminate duplicate data entry and improve the process flow .

b) The implementation of a comprehensive Rights of Way IT system that allows the service to effectively and simply report on performance to manage the day to day Rights of Way operation.

c) The development and implementation of a proactive inspection and maintenance programme across the whole network parish by parish, underpinned by a separate summer vegetation clearance programme, to increase transparency, communication, partnership and multi-agency work (working with Parish Councils, Landowners and user groups) and staff morale. A pilot is proposed to test the model and evaluate how this could best operate within Hampshire prior to implementing it in full.

4) Option Analysis / Comparison

4.1. The principle benefits to proceeding with the recommendations and proposed actions in the consultant's report are :

a) A clear and defined business process from end to end with consistent processes and procedures across the county based on a proactive programme of inspection and maintenance.

b) Improved perception by the public of the Rights of Way service, resulting from the changed approach and increased transparency through publishing more information and making it readily available for Hantsdirect and avoiding the number of contacts from the public and thereby reducing the cost of maintenance.

c) Readily available management and performance information to enable the service to make the most effective use of existing resources.

d) A defined direction of travel for staff within the service that helps them to not feel overburdened, retain commitment and morale and manage the service, whilst harnessing partnership and multi-agency working to improve the perception of the service and manage the many expectations and demands from the public.

e) Ability to improve communications with the public and Hantsdirect, more effectively manage the many public expectations and have clear and published service standards.

4.2. Taking these actions forward will be dependent on many things, not least cost and the availability of funds. The full report has a summary of these influencing factors and details of the possible associated costs. A full business case analysis will be undertaken before any proposals are developed which are likely to involve significant costs to the County Council.

5) Conclusions

5.1. The Countryside Service are pleased to have worked closely with Treasurers' Consultancy on this piece of work. The report represents a very comprehensive and in-depth study of a high profile area of work which attracts a great deal of public attention. The Service is determined to ensure that the good work which is undertaken to maintain and improve people's access to the countryside is not let down by its direct service to those customers who contact the County Council. Whilst the Service is still one which is held in high regard, this review has identified several areas which can be improved. Not all of these can be followed up straightaway, and some have significant costs attached to them necessitating further work in order to assess the true costs and benefits.

5.2. The next step would be to implement the relatively quick and straightforward actions as set out in the report's action plan and to commence work on the longer-term aspirations.

6) Recommendations

Please see Executive Summary for recommendations.

CORPORATE OR LEGAL INFORMATION:

LINKS TO THE CORPORATE STRATEGY

Yes

No

Hampshire safer and more secure for all

Corporate Business plan link no (if appropriate)

Maximising well-being

Corporate Business plan link no (if appropriate)

Enhancing our quality of place

Corporate Business plan link no (if appropriate)

OR

This proposal does not link to the Corporate Strategy but, nevertheless, requires a decision because:

OTHER SIGNIFICANT LINKS:

Links to Previous member decisions:

Title

Ref

Date

Direct Links to Specific Legislation or Government Directives

Title

Date

Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background documents

 

    The following documents discuss facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and have been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report. (NB: the list excludes published works and any documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.)

    Document

    Location

    None

COMPREHENSIVE RISK & IMPACT ASSESSMENT:

1) Equalities Impact Assessment:

a) Improving the fault report process and customer feedback will have benefits for everyone who uses the public rights of way network and wishes to report something which could be improved. The Countryside Service sees it as a priority to help improve access to the countryside particularly for those people who are currently unable to enjoy the countryside as much as they would wish. A more efficient service ought to make more of this work possible.

2) Impact on Crime and Disorder:

a) None directly.

3) Climate Change:

a) How does what is being proposed impact on our carbon footprint / energy consumption?

b) How does what is being proposed consider the need to adapt to climate change, and be resilient to its longer term impacts?