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Unlocking the Incentive Fund

27 July 2015

By Alex Croston

For several years now, there has been a growing movement from the Department for Transport (DFT) to encourage local authorities to adopt sound asset management practices. The Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme has provided substantial direction to help local authorities in this endeavor including the Highway Infrastructure Asset Management Guidance. The next step in this asset management journey has been the introduction of the £578 million Incentive fund, which will run until 2020/21.

The money received from the incentive fund will depend on an authority’s score on a 22 question self-assessment questionnaire, which can be viewed here. The questions themselves revolve around the themes of Asset Management, Resilience, the Customer, Benchmarking and Efficiency and Operational Delivery. For each question an authority can fall into one of three bands. Band 1 is at one extreme indicating a basic understanding of the concepts and band 3 at the other end showing that the key areas of good practice the question covers have been in place for some time and outcomes from this can be evidenced.

From the banding achieved by each question, an authority will be placed into an overall band. Band 1 authorities will be those that achieve Level 2 or 3 in fewer than 15 of the 22 questions. Band 2 authorities require at least 15 questions to be scored at Band 2 or 3 and Band 3 authorities require at least 18 questions to be scored at Band 3. But there is a further twist. In order to achieve an overall Band 2 or 3 Level, an authority must score better than band 1 in three core questions: Q1) Asset Management Policy & Strategy, Q2) Communications and Q5) Lifecycle Planning.

It is at this point that I want to introduce Horizons. Having reviewed the questions, it is clear that this strategic decision support tool can greatly assist with an authority’s service delivery and hence their goal of attaining Band 2, or 3 and unlocking that extra funding. 11 of the questions in the incentive fund questionnaire are directly or partially addressed by Horizons and the asset management capabilities it delivers.

Additionally, in developing good practice to perform well on the core questions, Horizons offers key benefits. It is a system that incorporates lifecycle modelling principles into its asset management processes and as such will put you in a very strong position on Question 5.

Furthermore, Horizons has been used by many authorities to help them to understand what is possible with different levels of funding. This aids the authorities to ensure that their asset management policy and strategy are realistic and achievable, as well as giving their executive the confidence to endorse them, which will have a significant influence on Question 1.

Even with question 2, I believe Horizons could be of assistance as it talks about a need for “a transparent process for decision-making available to the public” and “evidence of consultation regarding the decision making process”. The Multi-criteria Analysis that you can perform in Horizons is a clear, visual way of showing that you are considering multiple stakeholder requirements in your scheme selection process.

With the creation of the incentive fund, asset management has become an even greater driving force in transformation of service delivery for local authorities. In order to excel in this new era, authorities are going to have to adapt and that will inevitably involve leaner working practices, more collaboration and adopting the right technologies.

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