It is now 12 months since you took the brave and far-reaching decision to introduce a major change and become Road Safety GB.
Our first year as Road Safety GB has been so positive that, in my opinion, the change of name was the best policy decision we have ever made. I talked then about planting the seeds and I feel that these seeds are now beginning to grow. During the last 12 months I have travelled many miles and attended many meetings on your behalf. Everywhere, I get positive comments about Road Safety GB and how it is progressing, not only from road safety officers but also from government agencies and the private sector.
Since my last update, your officers and I have been very busy building relationships and strengthening existing partnerships. We have also been working very hard to form solid intellectual links with potential new partners and secure the funding required to enable us to develop the organisation further – and, with a considerable degree of success, to raise the profile of our profession to the highest possible level.
We have generated considerable interest in our organisation and it is quite obvious that others are seeing – through their enthusiasm to share expertise, experience and resources – the benefits of becoming involved with us.
It is quite clear that Road Safety GB has created quite a stir. And without doubt, we have grown in stature.
Forging new partnerships
The main drive has been to promote Road Safety GB to other like-minded agencies and organisations and to those who are, potentially, our partners. We have had a number of partnering meetings with the Highways Agency, the Driving Standards Agency, the Road Safety Partnerships (Safer Roads UK) and Road Safety Support (RSS) to discuss how we, as major players in casualty reduction in the United Kingdom, can work together to the mutual benefit of each other, regionally and nationally. It is fair to say that, generally, these meetings between organisations with similar goals have achieved a good degree of success.
Our most visible partnership to date is with the Highways Agency, whose officers have been extremely positive towards us. Indeed, the Highways Agency has invested substantial financial resources to help us promote our very successful first national conference and secure our first national road safety campaign.
By now, you will all be familiar with Road Safety GB’s first national publicity campaign, the Good Egg In Car Safety Campaign, which will launch in September 2010. In addition to the Highways Agency, it will be supported by the Arnold Clark Group, which has also invested substantially.
In addition, we have in place an expert working group to manage the campaign and to look at the whole issue of child ‘in car’ casualties. We are grateful for substantial input from Julie Dagnall and Val Currie of Road Safety GB, Lucy Fuller of Arnold Clark, Julie Smith from the Highways Agency, Michael McDonnell of Road Safety Scotland and the Dynamic team led by Jan Deans. Each individual brings a range of skills to the table to ensure that our first national campaign and resource is of the highest standard. On behalf of Road Safety GB I have expressed my gratitude to both sponsor organisations and in particular to the individuals, all of whom have worked very hard behind the scenes to make it all happen. Of course, the campaign needs the full support of you, the members, to ensure it is a huge success and I thank you all in anticipation of your professional assistance to deliver the campaign at local and regional level.
In April, I had a very positive meeting with the Driving Standards Agency. We have both expressed a strong desire to work with, and for, each other in an effort to improve communication at national level and to have much more ‘hands on’ involvement at regional level. We are also keen to work with DSA in collaboration with other like-minded agencies to assist in setting standards within the road safety delivery profession. Road Safety GB’s excellent web and communication systems, and the forthcoming Road Safety Knowledge Centre, will assist DSA and other organisations to share good practice and communicate important messages and intelligence to the industry. There will be a great deal of discussion on this particular issue in the very near future. DSA wishes to work with us and on our behalf as expert advisers on driver training, and they will be very keen to assist in the formation of a Young Driver Working Group which will look at the issues relating to this high risk casualty group. This is a very positive step.
In April I also met with Road Safety Support and once again this was a very positive meeting. RSS has the facilities, and is willing, to provide advice to Road Safety GB members on a range of legal matters relating to road traffic law. We will also be involving RSS in discussions with the National Staff Training Group/IRSO about training and qualifications for Road Safety Officers. I am also very pleased to be able to tell you that RSS has made an offer, in principle, to provide substantial financial assistance towards the cost of running our 2010 National Conference which will be held in Warwickshire in November. This is most welcome and enables us to feel confident that our event will, as in 2009, be a huge success. I have also been invited to speak at RSS’s annual member conference in Manchester on 30 th June, an invitation I have been delighted to accept.
Being involved in these meetings makes it easy for me and your other officers to see how our organisation is developing, and to see its significant future potential. It is equally important, however, that you, our members, the UK’s road safety professionals, feel part of this process.
As part of my efforts to achieve this, I have a planned programme of visits to the regions. To date I have visited the North West and East Midlands Regions, and I am pleased to report that I now have firm dates to visit Wales and the South East Region in May, London and Yorkshire and Humberside Regions in July, and Mercia and Eastern Region in September. I look forward to meeting you all!
I believe that my first two visits were very positive as I outlined where I see Road Safety GB in the medium and long-term. I also shared my thoughts on a structured way that road safety in the UK can be much more co-ordinated and indeed regulated. We belong to an extremely important profession and it is vitally important that all members are involved in all these discussions and decisions as there are sure to be some big issues to explore in the coming months and years.
Through the numerous meetings I have attended around the country, and through discussions with individuals, I have already gleaned much information about the ways in which the Government Agencies work, and indeed how individual local authorities work. It has been very interesting and useful to learn how the local authorities work together, and how they work with other organisations in the regions, in formal partnerships or otherwise. It is clear there are many differences region by region and it is also clear that communication within our organisation has room to improve. I am optimistic that this will improve substantially in the future as Road Safety GB develops.
The Road Safety Knowledge Centre, formerly known as TimeBank, is currently under development. DfT has provided further substantial funding for this excellent and exciting new project. Our partners clearly see the potential of this new resource which will open up a whole new world of information sharing, not just in this country, but globally. Indeed, I have recently been contacted by a road safety organisation from India, where road casualties are a very major concern, and the Knowledge Centre may enable them to begin to chip away at what probably appears to be an insurmountable problem. I look forward with eager anticipation to the launch in August and to see how the Knowledge Centre develops in the future. I would like to thank all involved in this project, in particular DfT for its financial contribution, and also Simon Surtees-Goodall (DfT) Simon Mills and James Gibson (Road Safety GB), Nick Rawlings (Stennik), and Adrian Walsh (Roadsafe), who jointly comprise the Road Safety Knowledge Centre working group, for their excellent contribution to help shape this new resource.
Planning for the 2010 Road Safety GB National Conference, to be held at Chesford Grange, Kenilworth, is well underway and delegate registration is now open. Following last year’s hugely successful event I am optimistic of a sell out again this year, so make sure you register soon by visiting the conference section on the website.
We also have a new officer; Su Negus was nominated for and has assumed the role of Honorary Secretary. Congratulations Su, we all look forward to working with you. May I also take this opportunity, on behalf of Road Safety GB, to thank Alan Fisher, our outgoing Secretary who has made a huge contribution to the organisation during his tenure. We wish him well for the future.
The future of the economy concerns us all and will undoubtedly affect local authority employees. Our budgets will be scrutinised, as will our staffing levels, so it is vital that we, as a collective, manoeuvre ourselves into a position where we can be much more effective and efficient. We must look at the structure, management and reporting processes, and accountability of road safety delivery at national, regional and local level.
The steady stream of good news stories coming through the Road Safety GB website is testament to the huge amount of work that is happening around the country. The enthusiasm and commitment from road safety officers, and others, has no bounds. But it also demonstrates quite clearly that there is a lot of reinventing of the wheel, and duplication. While it is vital that we are able to develop new areas of work and to experiment, we also need a formal process for monitoring and evaluation, to ensure we are doing the job effectively.
There are many ETP practitioners on the ground; those, like you, who work for local authorities as well as others. As a nation, do we know how many? Do we know if they are all trained to a certain standard? Do we know what volume of unregulated and uncoordinated work is going on in our own local authorities, in our regions, and where? How much of that work is monitored and evaluated? We need to be wary of the potential to slip into inefficient and ineffective working, and be willing and able to do something about it. Above all, in the current climate, we need to ensure we provide ‘Good Value for Money’.
Delivering road safety is a very challenging but rewarding profession. We only have to consider how much our industry has changed during recent years, with many more organisations and individuals becoming involved in casualty reduction, to realise the ‘attraction’ that our work holds.
Unfortunately, the growth of ‘multi agency’ involvement has sometimes generated an air of competition at regional and even local level. Often there appears to be conflict between organisations and individuals who are trying to realise the same goals. It is my strongly held view that such rivalry is detrimental to effective casualty reduction.
I am very aware of some very good examples of partnership working around the country, where different organisations can, and do, work together in a co-ordinated fashion, to achieve a shared strategy.
I am also very aware of other examples where a lack of strategy and a well-defined regional structure and management/reporting processes means that organisations, groups, and individuals have difficulty working together; they are unable to reach decisions due to conflicting remits, local internal targets or policies. Ultimately, all too often the result is delays in delivery, reduced effectiveness and inefficiency.
The challenge for Road Safety GB, for local authority road safety professionals, is to take the lead. Local authorities have a statutory duty to deliver programmes to reduce road casualties and we are tasked with meeting and exceeding Government casualty targets. We are also encouraged to form partnerships and work with other like-minded organisations and individuals to provide effective and efficient programmes.
Leadership is a challenge – but we must lead, guide and advise on the co-ordination of ETP at local and regional level. We must take the lead and work with Central Government and its agencies in developing a national /regional management structure and process that will allow us all to work much more closely in a truly co-ordinated national effort to reduce casualties. We must leave politics to the politicians; our priority is to effectively reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads every day, and to look at long term strategies that will see measurable and sustainable reductions.
At national level we are making some inroads into the issues I have set out above, and we have made huge strides towards improving our organisation as well as our status in the world of road safety.
As we make further progress I will keep you updated. Please be assured that your officers and I will continue to work very hard for this excellent profession.
Keep up the good work, and I look forward to meeting with you at regional meetings and at our National Conference in November.