Examination of Witnesses (Questions 88
WEDNESDAY 10 JANUARY 2001
MR D CLEMPSON
88. Good afternoon gentlemen, may I welcome
you most warmly and ask you to identify yourselves?
(Mr Foster) My name is Paul Foster. I am here representing
the Public and Commercial Services Union in the Highways Agency.
(Mr Clempson) Good afternoon, my name is Dave Clempson
and I am representing the Maritime and Coastguard Agency trade
89. Do you have anything you wish to say as
an opening remark or will you be quite happy to go straight to
(Mr Foster) Happy to go to questions.
90. I am sure you understand that where you
agree with one another but there is an overlap perhaps you would
be kind enough to restrict one spokesman to the job. If you have
any difficulties, perhaps you would tell us. How many additional
staff were originally thought to be needed to allow the Highways
Agency to meet the requirements of A New Deal for Trunk Roads
(Mr Foster) We were informed in September 1999 that
100 additional staff would be required.
91. Why was the Agency unable to recruit enough
(Mr Foster) You would probably have to ask them. We
have certain suspicions.
92. Unfortunately for you, I am asking you.
(Mr Foster) Yes, I know. Sorry, Chairman. We believe
it was because we had problems with retention of existing staff
because of pay differentials between ourselves and the main departments,
particularly in London, also because we believe that there was
an underestimation of the time required to recruit staff, many
of whom were professional staff and the process took some six
months from determining what was needed to actually filling the
93. Have they now overcome that?
(Mr Foster) The complement has been reached but mainly
through a combination of consultants and casual staff.
94. Would you expect that to continue?
(Mr Foster) There have been some complications because
we are now looking to reduce numbers in central London, which
means there is actually a freeze on filling posts in London and
they are seeking to move posts from London to our offices elsewhere
in the country.
95. But you do talk about "widespread alarm
and confusion". What evidence is there that staff are under
(Mr Foster) Many staff were led to believe that vacancies
in their teams would be filled by fulltime civil servants. In
fact what has happened is that a number of these posts have not
been filled at all or there has been a high turnover of casual
staff who come in for a period of one or two months and then leave
and are then replaced by other casual staff. This has put an increased
burden on existing staff in having to train these people up and
train their successors.
96. So you actually think it is having an adverse
effect on the work.
(Mr Foster) Yes, and the morale of the staff.
97. They are moving over to design and build,
are they not, rather than the Agency doing a lot of the design
work and putting it out to contract? Does that have any impact
at all on the staffing implications?
(Mr Foster) For several years we have done no in-house
design actually. There has been design and build and it has all
been put out to the private sector for a number of years now.
98. How far does the Agency still have people
who really have the expertise to check up as to whether the design
is as good in road safety terms as it should be?
(Mr Foster) We have substantial numbers of staff who
are still chartered engineers who have been there for many years,
either working within the Agency, previously the Department of
Transport, or local authorities. There is a lot of expertise still
within the Agency.
99. The move to design and build has not really
affected the staff at all.
(Mr Foster) There has been a reduction in numbers,
but it has not been major.