Alan Kennedy addresses delegates at the 2009 Road Safety GB National Conference in Cambridge on 12 November
On behalf of Road Safety GB and the Conference Organisers it gives me great pleasure to extend to you a warm welcome to the 2nd Annual Road Safety GB Conference, here in the wonderful city of Cambridge.
First of all, I note that there are well over 100 of our local authority members present – which, I must say, exceeds by a considerable margin the regular attendance, over recent years, at national meetings. It is very reassuring to have your support in these early days of the new organisation.
I acknowledge, with gratitude, the additional support from both our sponsors the Highways Agency and DBDA. Thank you also to DfT, DSA, the Road Safety Partnerships, Police and Fire and Rescue Services and other national and regional organisations and businesses, who have supported the Conference by their presence here today. In some cases, by their contribution to the exhibitions – which I trust you will all visit at some time during the next two days.
Any success which this Conference achieves would not have been possible without all your support – which we value greatly, especially bearing in mind the financial constraints under which we are all working to at the present time. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work and it is my hope that each of you will leave tomorrow feeling that you have achieved great benefits from being here.
I would like to congratulate the Road Safety GB East Group, as well as Nick Rawlings and his team for the fabulous effort they have put in, to bring us away from Durham and here today.
When I recall the first Conference, which was organised by the North East Region some 5 or 6 years ago, I am staggered how it has grown each year and developed in such a way that it has become, what would now seem to be, a major calendar event and I can tell you now, that plans for 2010 are well under way.
Since I was elected, 6 months ago, to the Chair of the newly-constituted Road Safety GB I have been busier than at any time during my working career. I feel as if my feet have not touched the ground. The first six months of a reconstituted organisation was always going to be very challenging but I hope that the seeds that have been planted and which will continue to be planted, will begin to take hold very soon and that you will all be aware of, and benefit professionally from, the results.
I took on the role knowing that I wouldn’t simply keep the seat warm for Tim. I knew, as did one or two close friends and colleagues, that my urge to explore, to keep moving, is irresistible, and that I couldn’t Chair an organisation that would not embrace change. We all knew that, inevitably, there would be a need to dismantle and rebuild and please, do not, for one moment, doubt the commitment of your Officers and Policy and Management regional representatives, to accept and deal with the challenges ahead.
The majority of us have realised it is time to move on and we have started that movement. We will, and do, consult widely but, please, acknowledge that your authority is part of that process and give us your views and expertise when called upon to do so. It is important to be as transparent as it is possible to be, and to be measured in the approach to change.
There is an overwhelming need to become more inventive, (smart) to become truly efficient and effective. But there is so much to do with so little resource, and bearing in mind our issues, challenges and opportunities, we will need to be realistic and set our priorities with great care. We are a huge organisation that is managed by a small group of people, who also have day time jobs. Therefore it is so important that we take everything a step at a time to ensure that we do not waste precious resources on the way to achieving our goals.
I see the initial development programme of RSGB as a 3 stage process.
First, in the short term, we have to make sure the organisation can become efficient in the future. And as you are all aware, we have made some major decisions in order to settle our future finances. We can and we will be viable for the foreseeable future.
Secondly, and of no less importance, we need to know the make up of the organisation, what it consists of in terms of local resources, staffing and qualifications, what our strengths and, consequently, what our weaknesses are.
Thirdly, despite our local government origin and roots, we must acknowledge that there are other players in the game, and we need to consider the widening of our membership base.
Once we have achieved these short and medium term goals, we will be ready to go on and build for the long term.
And of course, you are entitled to ask what we have achieved to date? Well, I don’t really need to talk about the re brand, and the new website, as we all know and recognise the huge positive impact that this has had.
But during the last 6 months, we have taken steps to make the organisation function much more efficiently. The rationalisation of our national meetings and the increase in fees, both difficult processes and decisions, have been ratified today.
We have asked the Local Authorities to increase their support to the organisation, and we as officers, have been asked to look at what we can do to reduce operational costs. As a result we have streamlined the meetings of our other groups, and we are also looking at developing ways we can communicate from a distance. All of this will have an inevitable cost saving.
We are looking at other efficiency savings, and also business ventures that will bring in valuable income to help offset costs and help us become much more secure.
We are looking at other areas of work that will be of benefit to our organisation intellectually and that will add much value when working with partners. This includes discussions with DfT, and the Driving Standards Agency, and potential partners within the EU.
We have just produced our first Road Safety GB, national road safety campaign, making the resource available to you, the members. This is, I am sure, the first of many campaigns being that will be made available.
We have taken over the management of TimeBank, and following the recent survey regarding the TimeBank process we will be discussing and implementing changes to make TimeBank a tool that everyone will want to use with enthusiasm.
We have appointed a new PR company, SKV, on 1st September, and they are here today. Their approach to PR and communications is very encouraging and we are now in a position to be first on the screen in the morning, first to be heard on the radio, first to make important comments. This is a very welcome change. Our new image combined with our PR approach is reaping many benefits in terms of our exposure in the media.
So, what about the future?
In my last website update in August, I mentioned my critical friend. Well, he seems to sit on my shoulder a lot and he asks me some serious questions; recently, he asked, what is the make up of Road Safety GB? What are its assets? Where are these assets? And how effective are they? All very good questions.
As the organisation which represents local authority road safety teams, it would actually be very useful to know the answers to these questions.
We also need to know what our strengths and weaknesses are nationally, regionally and locally. Where are the skills gaps? Where is training needed? and what about qualifications? Where are resources continually thin on the ground? We need to know, and we need to understand, why.
So with this in mind it is our wish to instigate, during the next 12 months, a national review of our road safety capacity and when this does go live, I would ask that every potential respondent, ensures that they do respond, and are part of this important process.
With this information we can begin to see a clear picture of what is really required to build a much stronger national road safety team, one that has the right people working with the right tools, with an appropriate level of local, regional and national support.
So, we can begin to see already, a whole range of activities that we really need to undertake if we are to have a serious impact on road casualties in the years beyond 2010.
Evaluation, the 5th E, is a tool that is often overlooked. Evaluation is essential when delivering services that can save lives. If we are using the wrong tools, how will we know unless we evaluate. We could be wasting a lot of time, effort, and budgets by not knowing how ineffective our resources are. We have to get away from ‘feel good’ schemes that are very nice on the surface, but that may actually be a waste of resource.
We also need to be frank when advising others who would wish to be part of road safety education delivery. Who should or could, be delivering road safety education and training? Good question you may say. And one that has been argued with intensity and with utter conviction by many people over many years.
We need to take a fresh look at qualifications. Is there any reason why we should not have a national industry standard? Should it not be the case, that anyone aspiring to deliver road safety education, should be able to produce an appropriate qualification to any headteacher, parent, individual or organisation who asks, in order to demonstrate that they are a trained and competent person?
Schools for example, are regularly approached by various ‘professionals’ to deliver road safety education and training, but Road Safety is not something that anyone can, or should deliver. Road Safety should not just be a tick in the box exercise to satisfy certain educational standards. But who sets the road safety education standards? Who monitors those standards? Should there be a road safety practitioner register? Is this a role for Road Safety GB?
It is clear that there are many questions to be answered and much work that needs to be done in this area. But I see all of these as opportunities, opportunities to grow and develop.
At the other end of the scale, the strategic end, there are again, many, many opportunities. As road safety officers we do tend to be a bit precious about our work. We don’t want to give away our trade and our loyalty. After all, we have the Statutory Duty. But there are other practitioners who, with guidance and encouragement, and of course training and qualifications, can work with us, and for us, it is simply a case of managing the process.
At the end of the day, we all do this work for one reason, to have an impact on road casualties, to prevent that child from running out, and we must never forget that. We must put aside pride and politics, casualties are our priority.
None of us, no matter who we work for, can be successful on our own, we must work together in a well managed, joined up way that achieves results for everyone. We therefore need to consider our approach to everything we do, so that we can be inclusive to new ideas, innovations and others viewpoints and input, not seen to be, or operate as, an ‘exclusive’ organisation.
And this brings me back to the wider membership base. I am very aware of the growing push for inclusion of other organisations, and I am hopeful that within months we can really make some important and far-reaching decisions on the issue of the membership base. As part of our process to develop a Road Safety GB medium and long term strategy, we will be discussing with our colleagues around the country, how we can broaden the membership, and maintain a proper ‘constitutional’ management and reporting structure. Simply taking on new members without fundamental changes to the organisational structure will in my view, be fruitless.
Constitutions are great things if the requirement is to be constitutional. But they can also hold you back; stifle innovation and free organisational thinking. Just think what an organisation could achieve if only for one day, it forgot its constitution and thought outside the box.
It is very evident that there is a desire at all levels to have one voice for road safety and we must work towards that.
In this Country, we have a wealth of experience, and expertise. Much of that is here today. But there is so much more to learn and I am sure that this conference will serve us well in developing our expertise, and our knowledge. I hope it will also serve to improve communications between us and to develop better understanding and relationships.
Thank you to everyone for your efforts to reduce road casualties, you don’t need motivation, but I hope you go away from here tomorrow, inspired.
Enjoy the rest of your conference and best wishes to you all. Thank you.