Members were provided with an overview of current service provision across the Engineering and Transport Service and how the service will look and function as the Council moves into the recovery phase.
Across the five service areas, it was stated the Highway Development Control (HDC) and Passenger Transport and Home to School Transport were fully enabled to effectively carry on as normal as far as being able to deal with correspondence and day to day operations, following the announcement of the closing of offices.
In regards to the Highway Development Control team, it was noted that they had progressed with some planning applications that had been dealt with during the lockdown period and the SAB (SuDs Approval Body) that went live earlier this year had initially been slow in the uptake, but work is now progressing in that area. It was added that all risk assessments were in place for necessary site visits to enable SAB applications to move forward.
Officers highlighted that staff, particularly the Structures team, had been heavily involved with responding to the three recent storm events, including storm Dennis. Following this, a great deal of inspections were undertaken of Neath Port Talbots structures and bridges. It was noted that one bridge in Blaengwrach was severely affected by structural damage, however following Cabinets support of its replacement, the new bridge was now in fabrication and work was underway for it to be completed by the end of summer.
It was explained to Members that some areas within the Road Safety and Business Performance were affected by the results of COVID 19, mainly due to the closure of schools. Officers stated that a lot of the training programmes were delayed and staff had to re-think how they could move forward with the programs; however, programmes were now being developed that would be delivered online via the hub and classrooms talks completed via whiteboard technology through Microsoft Teams. Dave Griffiths, the Head of Engineering and Transport, gave thanks to their links with Education and IT, as they have helped to maintain important training programmes for young people.
Members were informed of the new cycle to work scheme that was launched at the beginning of July, in which the uptake had been very good. It was mentioned that around 73 people had taken up the opportunity of purchasing bikes through the scheme (33 electric and over 40 traditional bikes ordered) with both Members and Officers within the Council, taking up the benefits of the scheme. It was added that there would be a training programme delivered over the summer so people can learn how to ride a bike.
In terms of business performance, it was noted that some employees within the area had been deployed into Track and Trace service to support the workload and that a number of new ICT driven arrangements had been introduced; due to the positive outcomes of these new arrangements, it was stated that the business and secretarial teams were going to be reviewed to identify if the service could be provided in a more efficient and productive way going forward. It was added that Joy Smith, the Road Safety and Business Performance Manager, and supervisors would be reviewing this and Members will be provided of the changes in a future meeting.
Officers explained that the Parking Services team had been suspended during the outbreak of the virus, as on street and off street enforcement ceased. It was confirmed that on street enforcement started back at the beginning of July, off street parking enforcement would be commencing on 1 August 2020 and on 1 September charges and enforcement would be reintroduced in town centre car parks; it was mentioned that this would provide town centres and retailers with additional support to recover and town centres begin to open.
The introduction of new virtual parking permits was raised, with Officers clarifying that 1,400 staff and all of the local Councillors were set up to date and from 1 September 2020, paper permits would not be required. It was added that the vehicle registration numbers could be interchanged online if multiple vehicles were being used and if anyone had difficulties with this they could contact Ian Rees, the Parking Enforcement Supervisor.
Members were informed that the whole team who made up the Community Transport Service had been re deployed to help set up the food distribution centre that was set up to support the Safe and Well Scheme, which has been operating throughout the pandemic. It was added that the shielding position for vulnerable residents was due to be changed on 16 August 2020, and from that date there would no longer be food packages provided.
Officers confirmed that should staff need to go into the offices for any essential work, a rota had been set up for this to be done safely and maintain social distance measures. It was mentioned that some administrative support staff had started to go into the office to provide support for the Directorate.
Councillor Simon Knoyle thanked Dave Griffiths, Head of Engineering and Transport, and the rest of the team for the work that had been completed on the bridge that linked between Glynneath and Cwmgwrach.
Following scrutiny, it was agreed that the report be noted.
The Committee thanked the Engineering and Transport service for all their hard work during the COVID 19 crisis and asked Dave Griffiths, Head of Engineering and Transport, to pass the message onto the his teams