The Governance First Project aims to establish more formal governance arrangements for roads authorities looking to deliver collaborative activity/shared services on a cluster or regional basis. The approach to this work is a marked cultural shift from traditional business case design over a lengthy period of time, and as such presents many challenges.
The concept of 'Governance First' is at the forefront of the Roads Collaboration Programme, essentially referring to the creation of a formalised governing body as the fundamental first step to developing shared services, undertaken prior to the design of the shared service in terms of operational delivery.
The Governance First concept stipulates that going forward, given the current economic pressures on roads authorities, sharing should be seen as the default position and not one that must be demonstrated as being preferable to the status quo in lengthy business cases developed over a number of years. This view is fully supported by the programme's political body, the Strategic Action Group (SAG), and the Minister for Transport.
This new approach to developing shared services was first communicated to the national roads community at an event in February 2014, where it was compared to the currently accepted way of thinking on collaboration - that one must first identify "candidate" projects and develop detailed business cases to demonstrate why an authority should share, often without accepted baselines or ability to measure gain. The event also drew attention to the fact that, despite current economic pressures, there is no requirement at present to demonstrate why an authority should continue to 'go it alone', and that the time is now right to change our business culture in relation to this.
By flipping the approach on its head, as it were, and setting up a governance arrangement first, prior to looking at specific area of a service where authorities could share, roads authorities could avoid common issues and barriers. They could benefit from working under a formal governance 'umbrella' where a common vision for the service could be agreed and options for working collaboratively could be explored.
Creating a governing body inclusive of elected members at the early stage has the added benefit of ensuring politicians are involved in setting the direction of the service from the outset. This creates the opportunity for an authority to agree to devolve some decision-making to that body, offering significant potential to increase the pace of the design and implementation of change.
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