Bringing 14 different partners together to create a Road Safety Strategy in which all stakeholders can feel equal ownership is a challenging initiative, but it is something which the West Midlands is currently undertaking.
The initiative was spearheaded by Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, who announced his intention to see all the local authorities in the region working together to radically decrease the number of people killed or injured on the region’s roads.
In a joint statement, together with Cllr Roger Lawrence Chair of the Transport Delivery Committee and Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, Andy Street stated:
‘Road safety affects everyone in our region and improving the safety of our roads is a key factor in making the West Midlands an attractive place to live, work and visit. The primary objective of the West Midlands Regional Road Safety Strategy is to reduce the number of people killed or injured as a result of road traffic collisions and to make our roads safer for all road users.’
Although we want to eventually reduce the number of people harmed in road traffic collisions to zero, the Regional Road Safety Strategy aims to reduce the number of people Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI’s) by 40% over the next decade.’ – (From Introduction to West Midlands Regional Road Safety Strategy)
As part of the Public Sector Reform, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) worked together to identify opportunities for closer collaboration. In January 2019 a Regional Road Safety Strategy Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) was signed by all heads of service and partners. These were:
- West Midlands Combined Authority
- The seven local authorities – Birmingham City Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Walsall Council, Sandwell, City of Wolverhampton Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Coventry City Council
- Transport for West Midland
- West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
- West Midlands Fire Service
- Highways England
- West Midlands Ambulance Service
Role of West Midlands Fire Service
Station Commander Lee Baker, from West Midlands Fire Service, was seconded to West Midlands Combined Authority, until April 2020 (which may be extended due to CoVid-19). He became responsible for collaborating across all seven Local Authorities and Partners to agree a 10-year Action Plan to reduce KSI’s by 40%.The original intention was that from April 2020 onwards a soft implementation would take place (again this timetable has been affected by the CoVid-19 outbreak). When Lee Baker’s secondment comes to an end, The Road Casualty Reduction Team (RCRT) will continue with implementation of the strategy.
Adrian Spencer, Watch Commander, WMFS Road Casualty Reduction Team (RCRT) was appointed to work alongside Lee Baker. Adrian explains why his department was allocated this role.
The mayor was keen to bring everyone under the same umbrella, to look at how we can build an intelligent, consistent approach to making West Midlands roads a safer place so we can adapt, interact, evaluate existing causes of personal injuries, increase driver awareness and prevent road traffic violations.
Naturally there were questions about why is the Fire Service taking the lead on convening a new Regional Road Safety Strategic Group composed of heads of service, new performance framework and Action Plan. The reason was that West Midlands Fire Service covers all seven local authorities, so we had the best overview of the different approaches. From this we’ve been able to bring all the different services together to look at how we can create an action plan which effectively and efficiently maximises existing resources. To build trust we needed to be aware of the obstacles to collaboration and make sure these were recognised.’
Obstacles to collaboration
Obstacles to collaboration between partners were identified as:
- Competition – for existing resources
- Regulation – different services are governed by different guidance and legal processes
- Differing priorities – each service and local authority has their own clearly defined priorities
- Evidence – a number of gaps in data collection methods were identified
- Human and Cultural Factors – historically services have always had their own ‘cultures’ which includes terminology and basic ways of doing things.
Recognising shared priorities
At the same time, there was awareness of a number of shared priorities between all the services. For example, the West Midlands region is currently the second largest region in the UK for the number of motorists driving without insurance, which has major implications for resources and cost to the economy. In addition, all the partners shared the challenge of the Fatal Four common causes of collisions – drugs and alcohol, distractions, seatbelts and speed – and recognised the advantages of coming together to share and adapt well proven and innovative approaches, to reduce these. (A new common cause of collision – Carelessness, is being introduced nationally, in the near future). Adrian says,
‘Everyone recognises the benefits of ensuring consistency, and ending duplication.’
An important part of Adrian’s work was networking widely with the partner agencies, creating new links and reinforcing existing ones, and ensuring that everyone was able to have their say. Adrian explains;
‘In order to create a shared approach, it was essential to involve all the partners, step by step. We had inclusive meetings to ensure that everyone had their say and agreed word for word, with everything that was being created,’
‘We created a Memorandum of Understanding to underpin the way we would work together, and to iron out the bigger overall challenges, so that we could start to work on the detail.’
Memorandum of Understanding
The Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U), as part of the West Midlands Road Safety Strategy, set out the following:
All partners agree to work in partnership to reduce road traffic casualties in the West Midlands, with the objective of:
- Adopting an iterative approach to evaluating the cause of personal injury collisions and develop a consistent approach to casualty reduction; *
- Developing a consistent approach to the intelligence led enforcement of road traffic violations and driver awareness;
- Agreeing the West Midlands Road Safety Action Plan which is aimed at achieving casualty reduction targets; and
- Using available resources to effectively and efficiently support the Regional Road Safety Strategic Group (RRSSG).
Key decision making about how to allocate resources will be undertaken by the Road Safety Strategic Group (RSSG).
Once the strategic plan had been created, WMFS Road Casualty Reduction Team (RCRT) carried out a gap analysis. Each partner organisation was asked to submit their action plan and these were overlapped to ascertain where gaps were so these could be addressed by putting shared objectives in place. Adrian says;
‘For example, one area of the region may not be particularly successful in addressing challenges around vulnerable road users such as cyclists, whereas in another part of the region with identical social demographics they have been successful around addressing identical challenges. We can then look at how best practice are shared, or identify where duplication of activities are being carried out by key partners in the same geographical areas – maybe the titles for the work differ but the aims and outcomes are almost the same. This will highlight the potential to streamline some of this work.’
Creative ways to collect data
One of the challenges to collaborative working is the way authorities and services record their data and WMFS is working on an electronic FORMS platform which could be shared across all local authorities and partners. Adrian says;
‘We are looking at a smart form which puts everything together on one screen, so that different partners can put in their own data online. This would then be fed into Power-Bi which creates graphs and others visuals so the data can be easily understood, and this can then be shared as a dashboard/infographic of live data. This proposal has still to be shared with the Mayor, but it’s something we are currently working on.’
Advice to others
These are some of the key learning points which have come out of the work so far:
- Allow time for the initial process of establishing ways of working together
- Be prepared to put time into developing connections and relationships
- Keep all partners closely involved during the initial stages, as you build up a working agreement
- Identify the challenges and be aware of the impact they have on partners
- Recognise different working cultures but also possible legal requirements governing different partners
- Make sure that staff working at ‘grass roots’ level are kept informed of what is being considered
- Actively seek ways to exercise innovative approaches
The way forward
‘This is still a work in progress, and we don’t know when we will have the final vision but our understanding is getting better. Our initial plan to launch the next stage has, unfortunately been held up by the outbreak of the Corona Virus, but it’s an ongoing project and will remain high on the agenda.’
* An iterative approach is one where a decision is reached through detailed and repetitive processes and analysis. to create a decision which cannot be easily revoked.