Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Vehicle Inspectorate Evidence to the Environment, Transport & Regional Affairs Committee

4.1  AIM AND OBJECTIVES

  4.1.1  The Vehicle Inspectorate (VI) was established as an Executive Agency on 1 August 1988. The Agency is responsible, in conjunction with other authorities, for supporting drivers, vehicle owners and operators in complying with vehicle safety and environmental standards. This is achieved through various activities which can be described as deterrent, educational and advisory or enforcement.

  4.1.2  VI currently employs 1,808 staff working across England, Scotland and Wales in Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) testing stations (91), area enforcement offices (23) or in headquarters offices. The main headquarters is in Bristol. The Agencies annual turnover is £69 million (1999-2000). Over recent years VI has worked to develop an integrated and involved organisation with devolved responsibility to allow individual creativity and responsibility.

  4.1.3  VI supports three DETR objectives, contributing to:

    —  delivery of regulatory and other transport services to the public;

    —  reducing the impact of transport on the environment; and

    —  improving health and safety standards by reducing risks from work, travel and the environment.

Agency Aim and Objectives

  4.1.4  A change has been made to the previous wording of VI's aim which was: "to contribute to the maintenance and the improvement of road safety and environmental standards". The underlined words have now been deleted and although only a minor difference the revised wording is more proactive: "to contribute to the improvement of road safety and environmental standards".Delivery of VI's aim is achieved through four objectives:

    —  To raise the compliance of the road haulage and passenger transport industries with roadworthiness, road traffic and environmental standards—through the delivery of effective training, testing, advisory and enforcement services.

    —  To improve the roadworthiness and environmental acceptability of private motor vehicles—through the delivery of effective MOT and Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) Scheme services.

    —  To offer modernised and customer-friendly services—through the provision of easily accessible and understandable services which minimise the burden on law abiding operators and motorists; working closely with the DVO group and other Government bodies to deliver joined up services.

    —  To run an efficient, continually developing and valued business—through the achievement of our Trading Fund objectives; improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of our processes; beneficial investment in our people, estate, equipment and information systems.

  4.1.5  This set of objectives was devised from April 2000 to fit better with the concept of service delivery as described in the Modernising Government programme. VI's Business Plan is now structured around these four business objectives with individual staff objectives for each financial year linked back to one or more of the four. This process helps staff to see more clearly how their work fits into the bigger picture.

  4.1.6  Improved delivery against VI's aim and objectives is driven by five strategic themes introduced in 1999-2000. Through corporate planning, headline activities are identified which enable progress in these areas. The themes are:

    —  improved effectiveness;

    —  a greater educational and advisory role;

    —  modernising government;

    —  new developments (legislative changes and selling into wider markets); and

    —  sharper performance management.

  4.1.7  Overall the direction of the organisation is evolution from a perceived policing role delivering against numbers of targets, to one which includes more of an education and advisory culture delivering output with a greater focus on effectiveness quality rather than quantity.

Management of the Agency

  4.1.8  The Chief Executive, Maurice Newey, has been in post since April 1998. He is responsible to the Secretary of State for the day to day running and management, performance and future development of the Agency within the terms of the Framework Document. This document has been reviewed and updated in the past year. Changes,which were of a minor nature, have been approved by DETR (C) and the Treasury and signed off by the Minister. A copy is included with the submitted reference documents.

  4.1.9  VI's activities are managed through five Directorates. These are detailed in the organisation chart at appendix B, which also shows current Directors in post. The structure was introduced during the 1997-98 financial year and is based on elements of the Business Excellence Model. The change of emphasis from the former functional structure (Testing/ Enforcement/ Corporate Services/CEO's office) was made to further improve customer focus (from operations to the end user and from policy to the department); and, to enable better communication, more cohesive planning and clearer definition of roles and responsibilities. It also allowed for the establishment of an HR director post without increasing the number of senior grades. The restructuring improved VI's effectiveness by providing a sharper focus on delivering its main objectives.

Planning

  4.1.10  Since 1995 VI have been developing internal planning mechanisms to create a robust, integrated and clearly understood process. The Corporate Plan sets the medium to long term strategic direction for the organisation including "enabling" action plans for taking the business forward. An annual Business Plan is extracted from the Corporate Plan and is published to cover each financial year (April to March). A summarised version is distributed to staff and a more comprehensive internal version forms the basis of the business' electronic monthly performance report. Action is in hand to have the Annual Plan on VI's web-site from this year. A copy of the Business Plan 2000-01 is included with the reference documents.

  4.1.11  Plans and processes are debated and agreed with both DETR(C) through the Vehicle Inspectorate Advisory Board (VIAB) and more recently involvement has extended to the Driver,Vehicle and Operators (DVO) group. Close working with policy customers in the Department is being improved through the recently established Enforcement Support group. Internally the process encourages involvement from both the top down and the bottom up with the aim of ensuring joined-up thinking, owned prioritisation and integrated budgeting. This year VI have introduced an electronic planning database which allows the corporate plan to be a "living" document easily updated by the responsible managers and widely accessible within the organisation. Regular staff briefings also assist improved awareness of process and plans.

Financial Management

  4.1.12  The Agency became a Trading Fund in 1991. The Government Trading Funds Act, as amended, requires VI to manage the funded operations so that costs incurred in undertaking all aspects of work are matched by the appropriate income received. Appendix C details satisfactory financial performance against this objective in the past five years.

  4.1.13  Return on capital (ROC) and efficiency targets are further measures reflecting the financial performance of the business:

    —  The ROC target of 6 per cent for the period 1 April 1991 to 31 March 1998 was exceeded with the actual rate of return equating to an average of 7.3 per cent. The target for the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 2003 is again 6 per cent and VI are on course to meet this.

    —  Efficiency is measured through the Agency's Aggregated Cost Efficiency Index (ACE). ACE looks at changes in the unit costs of each Scheme. The outputs and costs of the year are compared with those of the previous year (after taking inflation into account). This information is then pulled together in a single index for the Inspectorate. A cumulative +29 per cent improvement in efficiency has been achieved since VI became a Trading Fund in 1991,and +38 per cent since becoming an Agency in 1988.

  4.1.14  The Trading Fund accounts are published in the Annual Report and Accounts each year as a House of Commons paper.They are subject to an audit certificate by the Comptroller and Auditor General. VI's accounts to date have received no qualification to the audit opinion.

Major developments in the business

  4.1.15  Over recent years, VI have managed a number of significant changes in the business. These include implementing legislation on HGV re-plating for new vehicle weights; and PSV seat belt checks following new legislation in August 1998 in response to public concern. VI received good feedback from the industry on the quality of guidance given; effectiveness was reflected in the subsequent low fail rate. VI's testing role has been expanded to include Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) testing, whereby non-EU type-approved commercial imports, amateur-built vehicles and personal imports are inspected and certified to ensure they meet with UK vehicle regulations. Currently VI issue 15,000 certificates annually. Volumes are expected to rise substantially in 2000-01 now that agreement has been reached on the lifting of quotas and that older vehicles are to be included in the scheme. Another major recent development is the project for computerisation of MOT testing. This will create an MOT database, deliver electronically MOT standard information to testers, provide and collect vehicle and test information and issue test documentation. The PFI contract was let in February 2000 having been the first significant procurement project to pass scrutiny by the Treasury and Cabinet Office pre-contract review panel.

  4.1.16  In support of a clear focus on improving the Agency's effectiveness, a major IS strategy has been implemented. The IS programme has meant a major change in working practices, with the introduction of new IT-based information and recording systems. Staff now use these systems at the roadside to obtain operator and vehicle history data, to input the results of their checks and to issue prohibitions (ie notices preventing vehicles from being used until a defect has been rectified and the vehicle inspected—prohibitions can be immediate (for very dangerous items) or delayed allowing a variable period of time, dependent on degree of risk prior to the prohibition coming into force). Such a significant change, and the challenges of using new technology in the harsh roadside environment, has brought with it many challenges which have progressively been met. The systems have already started to help improve consistency in VI's enforcement activities with work now being done to improve the systems to help increase staff productivity.

Business Performance Management

  4.1.17  To maintain a balanced delivery of performance across the business and to ensure issues are addressed in an integrated way, VI utilises a balanced scorecard system. VI's balanced scorecard consists of the following quadrants: excellent services to our customers (within government and external); sound financial performance; continuing improvement of internal management; and, investment for the future. The balanced scorecard technique guards against meeting short/medium term measures (service and financial) to the detriment of the more long term measures (improved internal management and investment) which will keep the organisation healthy and better able to cope with change.

Performance reporting

  4.1.18  Regular performance reports (monthly/quarterly) keep VI managers and Directors informed on progress against the plans through an exception reporting process. Similar reports allow DETR(C) and the VI Advisory Board to monitor in-year performance while public reporting of our performance is through the publication of the Annual Report and audited Accounts. A successful development of performance reporting has been the Effectiveness Report which was first published to cover 1995-96. It provides more detailed results and analysis on activities undertaken in the year and a fuller assessment commentary than previously achieved through the sole Annual report and Accounts. The report was well received and is now published annually, although the content and layout have been revised following customer feedback.

4.2  PERFORMANCE AGAINST KEY TARGETS

Strategic targets

  4.2.1  In 1995-96 VI planned a move away from 11 targets which predominantly focused on counting activity rather than effect. Work began on developing a set of strategic targets that more meaningfully embraced the aim to improve road safety and environmental standards allowing a more sensible focus on our effectiveness. At the same time the new measures gave VI greater flexibility to allocate resources to achieve targets.

A balanced view

  4.2.2  With the introduction of the Balanced Scorecard in 1996-97, performance reporting was expanded to cover not only delivery of customer requirements and financial measures but also delivery of work which ensures the longer-term viability of the organisation. Over the years these measures have included customer surveys; increased staff awareness and satisfaction; achievement of Investors in People (IiP); implementation of a major Information Systems (IS) strategy; and more recently the setting up and running of the MOT Computerisation project.

Measuring effectiveness

  4.2.3  VI's workforce has a real vocation for the improvement of road safety and environmental protection. Having appropriate performance measures is crucial in enabling staff to identify ways of improving effectiveness and is essential in providing the right motivation. Development of performance measures has to ensure that staff can see that the targets will truly lead to improvements in these areas. For example, enhancement of assessing quality and effectiveness has been delivered by moving from straight counting of the number of prohibitions and prosecutions to a points system. Detection and follow-up action relating to offences of greater severity results in a higher number of points and encourages staff to give investigation of these offences a higher priority. The result is more attention focused on serious offenders.

Assessing value added

  4.2.4  As a next step in the development of performance measurement, the concept of "Performance Gain" (PG) is being explored. PG aims to measure where VI has been more or less effective in using its resources to improve road safety and environmental standards from one year to the next. It does this by linking outcomes from different activities to their potential impact on safety and allocating a score appropriate to that impact (whether it be of a deterrent, education and advisory or enforcement nature).The intention is that VI would be set a score to achieve across its activities and that the agreed outcome values would encourage staff to pursue the most effective activities within the constraints of resources available (subject to any statutory minima which must be delivered—for example EU Regulations require a minimum number of tachograph chart inspections). In this way PG is able to measure year-on-year change in both effectiveness and efficiency.

  4.2.5  PG is currently being piloted in 5 of the 23 enforcement areas and work is in hand to assess its potential across the rest of the business. Ideally it will provide a satisfactory mechanism to not only promote effectiveness but also satisfactorily measure efficiency. This will allow the replacement of the current ACE efficiency target which has outlived its usefulness as a measure.

Future development

  4.2.6  Looking further ahead, VI intend to identify aspirational targets for demonstrable improvements in overall road safety and environmental standards. As part of this process VI have undertaken random compliance surveys at the roadside to obtain a true picture of the state of the HGV and PSV vehicle fleets and the level of compliance of drivers and operators with the law. These checks then provide a baseline against which VI compare the effectiveness of targeting and show year-on-year improvement in standards. VI is not the only agency that might influence overall standards, eg police enforcement will have an impact. VI are looking at how to establish aspirational targets, linking reductions in accidents and offences to improvements in road safety while recognising that VI does not have full control over these outcomes.

Recent targets

  4.2.7  For the past two years seven key targets have covered: Effectiveness; Throughput; Customer Focus; Finance (ROC); Efficiency (ACE); Internal Management; and, Investment. While these key targets are now of a more strategic nature and can remain fairly constant, each one is supported by a number of key measures which if necessary, can be amended annually to meet changing Ministerial priorities. The key targets are further supported by a wider package of performance indicators which provide a more complete picture of performance across the business. Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets are embedded within the key targets and performance indicators.

  4.2.8  A key target summary below shows the comparative annual performance over the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 2000. Overall the last two years have been particularly challenging for VI with IS implementation and specialist staff recruitment difficulties impacting on our ability to meet completely each of the targets.Although performance has been affected by the introduction of IS systems at the roadside (which has required extra retrieving and recording of information), this has to be balanced against an improvement in targeting and an increase in the number of successful prosecutions. As IS systems are further bedded in, increased benefits to the organisation are anticipated through the improved use of intelligence and data. This factor together with improved recruitment at the beginning of this financial year, allow an increased confidence in the ability to meet all targets, with a marked growth in effectiveness.

Delivery against Key Targets in 1998-1999 and 1999/2000

  
1999-2000
1998-99
Key target 1:Effectiveness
To meet the quality and general effectiveness levelsas specified in the Business Plan measures setfor 1999/2000
Achieved 5 of 6 set measures
Achieved 12 of 14 set measures


  One measure missed by 1 per cent though performance in this area improving by 11 per cent on prior year. As new ways of working together with improved use of intelligence and data have an increasing impact, VI anticipate steady improvement.

Key target 2:Throughput
To meet the requirements on levels and types
of activity laid down in the Memorandum
of Agreement on each Road Transport
Enforcement Scheme as agreed with the Department
of the Environment, Transport and Regions
Delivered 97%
outputs on 2 of 3
MOA
Achieved 3 of 3
key measures
Minimuminspections
Achieved 16 of 22
set measures
Periodic checks
achieved


  Plan to overcome delivery difficulties in 2000-01 as recruitment shortfall is reduced and IS systems bed in. The number of "key"measures reduced year to ensure clearer focus on priorities and greater flexibility in deployment of resource so VI continue move away from delivering many specified activities to delivering more effective outcomes in road safety terms.

Key target 3: Customer Focus
To continue to improve customer focus across VI
through the implementation of initiatives in line with Better
Government and government direct policies
Achieved
Achieved
Although the specific wording and supporting measures of this key target are amended annually, such an approach providesfor a clear remit to continually improve customer service but with a clear focus on current priorities in each year. Apart from the detailed measures we were required to meet specific to this year, a range of ongoing activities was undertaken throughout the organisation ensuring we listened, and responded to customer needs.     
Key target 4: Financial (ROC)
To break even while achieving an average 6% real rate of return on capital, over the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 2003
11.3%
14.4%
1999-2000 is second year in five year period over which this target is to be delivered. Outturn for 1 April 1991 to 31 March 1998 was an average of 7.3 per cent against a 6 per cent target.     
Key target 5:Efficiency
To achieve an Aggregated Cost Efficiency (ACE)
Index of+1%
Target
+1%
Outturn
2%
Target
0%
Outturn
0%
The continued impact of the IS programme implementation coupled with planned changes to the SVA scheme not coming in as anticipated, were the main factors that constrained ability to deliver further efficiency gains. Cumulative to-date performance is nevertheless +35.8 per cent since becoming an Agency in 1988. The target set for 2000-01 is +1 per cent.     
Key target 6: Internal Management
To improve staff awareness and satisfaction as measured
through the annual survey and assessment against the Investors in
People standard
Achieved
IiP awarded
7 January 2000
Achieved
This key target acts as a proxy measure for continually improving internal management. Over the past three years performance under this key target has delivered against improving staff awareness and satisfaction culminating in successful assessment against the IiP standard in January 2000.     
Key target 7: Investment
To secure the long term development of the
organisation through:
—implementation of the Information Systems (IS) Strategy; and
—progression of the MOT Computerisation project
Achieved
Achieved
Achieved
Achieved
VI continue to make significant progress in these major projects which will help to deliver a more modernised and effective organisation keeping pace with changing technology and delivering more integrated services.     


  4.2.9  Appendix F provides detail on measures supporting key targets. Further information on performance is provided in VI's Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000, VI's Effectiveness Report 1999-2000 and the Evaluation Report 2000; all of which are provided as reference documents.

4.3  CUSTOMER SERVICE

WHO ARE THE CUSTOMERS?

  4.3.1  VI has a wide range of customers both for services to individuals and operators such as the testing of vehicles at VI test stations and for services to wider society such as enforcement and regulatory activities. Customers include:

    —  The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions;

    —  The Traffic Commissioners;

    —  The Haulage and Public Service Vehicle Industry;

    —  Trade Associations;

    —  Vehicle Manufacturers;

    —  Private Garages; and

    —  The Public.

Listening to customers

  4.3.2  VI strive to improve services and to respond to changing needs of our various customers. Close contact is maintained with the trade associations representing vehicle operators and Authorised Examiners. VI also hold meetings with them twice a year on HGV and PSV testing and enforcement. At these meetings officials and members of the associations discuss any matters of concern, initiatives and changes to legislation or DETR policy. A package of customer surveys at national and local level has provided useful feedback in the past. The effort to gather feed back is being extended through customer focus groups and similar work by the recently appointed "Consumer Champion", who will ensure that customers' views are fed into the planning process to ensure VI take positive action to improve services. The 1995-99 evaluation report noted that the Agency has become more customer focused by seeking customers views on their needs and on VI's performance. Customer feedback has been positive, indicating that VI is viewed as a professional and responsive organisation undertaking enforcement that is improving in its effectiveness

Improved service delivery

  4.3.3  As a result of listening to customer needs, VI have made a wide range of improvements in service delivery including:

    —  more flexible opening hours (appropriate to local needs);

    —  improved testing administration (slot booking, central call number, customer accounts);

    —  voluntary vehicle checks; and

    —  "designated premises" (DP) testing.

  4.3.4   VI have authorised designated premises (DPs), private owned test bays where VI testers undertake annual tests. This helps fleet operators. In 1991, the Inspectorate introduced testing at HGV operators' premises, a facility offered to PSV operators since 1982. By 1994-95 six only HGV DPs had been established. To take forward the Secretary of State's goal of a significant expansion of the scheme, VI and the Department reviewed conditions of appointment with a view to reducing them to a minimum needed to guarantee a proper test in a safe environment. The review proved to be a success. 20 DPs were operating by mid-1995-96 and the target of 80 by the end of that year. This target was comfortably met and the number of DPs and the proportion of HGV tests carried out in them has continued to increase. The number of DPs stands at 265 PSV and 117 HGV sites (some offering a dual HGV/PSV service). While the DP facility increases the convenience for operators it also increases the burden on VI as facilities and efficiency at these sites is not as purpose-built as at VI test stations. 10 per cent of HGV and 40 per cent of PSV tests are now done at these sites.

  4.3.5  VI aims to fulfil obligations under the Service First Initiative by enforcing improved service to our customers by working to published standards. These set out responsibilities, standards of operational performance and standards of general behaviour towards customers. This charter statement "The Service We Give You" was revised in October 1999 reflecting a change in service standards for central government and again in March this year to clarify aspects of VI's MOT work. It combines all of our customer service standards and appeals and complaints procedures into one booklet and replaces the six separate codes of practice previously in force. A copy of this leaflet is in our reference documents. VI's test manuals and in-service vehicle standards so that operators know what is expected of them when a vehicle comes in for test or is checked at the roadside. These documents will soon be available on the VI web site.

  4.3.6  VI encourages teams in the business to apply for Chartermarks as a way of recognising our commitment to improving customer standard. Support is given to teams to help them achieve this standard by providing practical help, advice and guidelines. A number of VI's test stations and training school applied since 1995, with 7 being successful

Improving compliance

  4.3.7  VI's role in conducting the annual MOT test for HGVs and PSVs assists in improving compliance. In terms of delivering regulation and improving road safety and environmental standards, VI have introduced the use of laptop PCs by roadside examiners that gives access to a range of information. This improves the consistency of standard in VI examiner decisions about vehicle and traffic legislation requirements. VI are developing targeting systems to concentrate on likely offenders and to operate with a light touch in relation to compliant operators. In 1997 VI established an intelligence unit to liaise with other enforcement agencies within the UK and abroad, to collate information gathered within VI and to undertake major investigations. This has already resulted in the successful prosecution of a number of drivers and operators for systematic abuse of driver hours legislation and other offences.

Greater education and advisory role

  4.3.8  VI are actively changing focus towards the promotion of compliance rather than using the traditional, disciplinary approach to testing and enforcement. VI are boosting their educational and advisory role to enable operators, drivers and others to be compliant. The Agency have reviewed and revised training courses and have been successful in increasing take up by operators of voluntary use of VI facilities to undergo a variety of vehicle tests to reassure themselves that they are complying with legal requirements. VI undertake seminars and provide videos and leaflets to help people understand the various rules they must meet and we are looking to do more of this. They have set up an MOT enquiry line so that testers can obtain technical advice on testing procedures. In 1998 VI launched "Matters of Testing", a quarterly newsletter providing information to MOT test stations and answering questions. This publication has been extremely well received by the trade. VI believe that facilitating compliance at source is the most effective way of improving road safety and environmental standards. This can only be achieved by educating customers in their legal obligations.

Electronic service delivery

  4.3.9  VI has fully embraced the Modernising Government aim of taking the customer's view-point and offering seamless, easy-to-use services. The computerisation of MOT testing is a major project demonstrating this. Roll out of this system is due to start in mid-2002. MOT computerisation will be a key step towards electronic vehicle licensing. VI are also undertaking a number of other initiatives linked to electronic provision of services. In addition to an increasingly comprehensive range of information about the work of VI being available on the web-site, electronic copies of HGV, PSV and MOT test and guidance manuals are being made available free of charge. Services to be made available in the Autumn include online access to search for details of vehicle recalls since 1995 and details of local MOT garages. A pilot scheme to accept credit card payments for the online sale of publications, videos and CDs is also to be launched by the year-end. For the future, the planning, development and delivery of a service to support online booking of HGV and PSV tests by operators will be another major step forward.

4.4  DVO STRATEGIC APPROACH

  4.4.1  The Chief Executive's membership of the DVO Strategy Board provides the focus for VI to identify new initiatives for joint action with other DVO agencies to improve customer services and effectiveness. In particular the Strategy Board provides sponsorship for a range of important cross-cutting developments such as the process of reviewing life events and the potential for joint delivery through IS/IT solutions. Apart from the Chief Executive's membership of the Strategy Board, a senior member of staff has been secondment to the DVO task force since June 1998.

  4.4.2  VI is very active in cross-DVO initiatives including carrying out a wide range of enforcement activities on behalf of other DVO agencies. VI is working with DVO partners to extend the range of training opportunities provided to vehicle owners and operators. One example is VI looking with DSA at whether to link drivers hours information with the driving theory test. VI has one of the largest training organisations in the country. It has therefore taken the lead for a joined-up approach to DVO training activity. The HR Director is also part of the group identifying and moving forward secondment and work shadowing opportunities within the DVO. VI is taking a lead role in the DVO process review group.

Seamless services

  4.4.3  Delivery of the Modernising Government agenda involves tackling service issues in a seamless way across government and looking at activities from the customer's point of view. In other words, VI should not look at the activity VI undertakes in isolation, but at the customer's total service need, only one part of which might involve VI. VI has, for some time, been taking a wider view of its role. VI is taking a lead role in the DVO process review group looking at the potential to improve services by taking the customer's standpoint. VI are involved in the project to simplify the personal import of a vehicle, one outcome from the process review exercise.

Integrated Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

  4.4.4  VI is also heavily involved in the DVO IT group which is looking at how technology can help the DVO to improve our service to customers and our enforcement effectiveness. In our preparations for the re-let of our IS contract VI have identified the need for links between ourselves and other DVO agencies which need to be covered by the new contract if the Agency are (subject to data protection legislation) to improve service quality and effectiveness. VI are working with TAN to make the best use of their planned new computer systems with similar aims in mind. The Agency already work very closely with TAN in the regulation of operators and with DVLA on VED and driver licence offences using manual links and are looking to identify both process improvements and more effective electronic processes to help us deliver greater effectiveness.

DVO thinking becomes an integral part of moving forward

  4.4.5  In looking at our activities VI now, as a matter of course, take a much broader view and consider whether there is scope for VI to deliver services on behalf of the DVO or to make use of expertise held by other DVO organisations. The DVO concept is spreading within VI and is welcomed by staff throughout the organisation who are, as mentioned elsewhere, keen to use every avenue open to them to improve road safety and environmental standards.

4.5  MODERNISING GOVERNMENT

  4.5.1  VI has developed an action plan to implement commitments of the Civil Service Reform element of the Modernising Government agenda which relate directly to staff. Key VI initiatives set out below.

Better business planning

  4.5.2  VI has invested time and effort into developing robust planning as discussed in paragraphs 4.1.10 and 4.1.11. The Agency's inclusive approach to business planning can be demonstrated by the achievement of the Investors in People accreditation. This pulls together the needs of the organisation and the aspirations of the individual. The IiP assessment report noted that "there was comprehensive evidence of a full planning process generating medium term and annual business plans which are circulated in detailed and in summary forms throughout the organisation."

Valuing Public Service

  4.5.3  Mackeson and Bichard recommend approaches to performance management which VI are already some way down the road to meeting. Following the design and implementation of a five year pay strategy in 1995,VI abolished long pay spines with unobtainable maxima, in favour of a "rate for the job" concept which is benchmarked against the employment market.

  4.5.4  VI has developed and is currently working toward implementing a further pay strategy this financial year. This will modernise VI's performance and reward systems linking pay progression to demonstration of competence and using a non consolidated performance bonus scheme. Business needs will be used to define grading structure and market related pay will be benchmarked. In addition there will be a phased roll-out of 360 degree appraisals (already present in parts of VI) and linkages between productivity, performance, appraisal and pay will be explored.

  4.5.5  The HR Strategy also encompasses: flexible working hours; long Service Awards; non consolidated bonus for "exceptional" performance; "preparing for retirement" courses for employees and partners (includes range of advice on health, finance, interests); and, financial support to enable carers to attend courses/meetings.

Dramatic Improvement in Diversity

  4.5.6  In aiming to maximise diversity, VI seeks to be a more attractive employer, by taking advantage of all potential opportunities available. A step in the right direction was made with the recent attainment of the Two Ticks (positive about disabled people) award in recognition of the commitment to encourage all employees to develop to their full potential. However, due to the nature of our work, VI still have further scope to improve the representation of women and ethnic minorities in the organisation.

  4.5.7  The diversity action plan includes: review of qualification and experience policies to ensure that they meet business needs and do not discriminate against individuals, (so allowing us to recruit the best person for the job); training on staff appraisals and recruitment; diversity awareness for all staff; establishment of a working group of employees from ethnic backgrounds to evaluate best practice; and, the development of positive action initiatives.

  4.5.8  VI's action plan for equality proofing has been developed with the Commission for Racial Equality and they have set up a partnership with CEED (Centre for Employment and Enterprise Development) to create placement training opportunities. Once established the Diversity Awareness Programme will be benchmarked for best practice.

Bringing on Talent

  4.5.9  VI recognises the value in promoting the interchange of individuals between departments and other organisations to widen staff experience and to actively encourage staff in the attainment of marketable qualifications. A management training programme has been developed in modular form and is to be extended to include management development and core HR competencies for performance management. Following a recent review of continuous professional development needs in the organisation a framework is now in place that will keep technical and enforcement staff up to date with the information they need to do their jobs.

Investors in People (IiP)

  4.5.10  IiP accreditation, achieved in December 1999, recognises equal treatment of employees in relation to training and development. VI put in place a robust and well resourced team to ensure best practice against the IiP standard. With the development of the new standard which puts greater emphasis on outputs, VI has developed a network of facilitators to deliver continuous improvement across this widely spread organisation. Again this supports and helps to deliver effective personnel management and is part of the plan for re-accreditation. VI is developing additional part-time facilitators to implement the latest IiP Action Plan and other Organisational Development initiatives.

A better deal for staff

  4.5.11  A commitment to work towards partnership with the Trade Unions is beginning to achieve integrated working practices and is supportive of the grading and pay review. VI has also effected good mechanisms to achieve two way communication with both unionised and non union staff. The background of total quality culture within VI allows and promotes empowerment where staff are able and willing to participate in organisational improvement.

4.6  MAJOR REVIEWS

  4.6.1  An evaluation of performance 1995-99 identified improvements VI had already made and areas where further improvements should be addressed. This is shown in more detail in the management summary at appendix G. Overall it concluded that VI had successfully demonstrated benefits from becoming an agency, in particular;

    —  improved effectiveness and efficiency;

    —  sharpened delivery and customer focus;

    —  improved MoT service to the public;

    —  met road safety and environmental objectives; and

    —  contributed to better road safety.

National Audit Office Study of Emission Testing

  4.6.2  NAO undertake studies of VI activities from time to time. Their latest study covered vehicle emissions testing and looked at the effectiveness of emissions testing both at annual test and at the roadside. Their report was published in May 1999 and considered by the Public Accounts Committee in January 2000. The report concluded that emissions testing plays an important role in the control of polluting emissions both by requiring polluting vehicles to be repaired and by the deterrent effect of these checks. A number of helpful recommendations to improve the consistency of testing by VI and the private sector (MOT garages) were made all of which have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. The NAO also suggested looking at the feasibility of remote sensing techniques to detect pollutants and this is currently being investigated.

4.7  CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

Total Quality

  4.7.1  VI is a keen advocate of the "Total Quality" management technique which was first introduced into the business in 1993 and involves building continuous improvement into the organisation's culture. A number of local continuous improvement teams (CITs) and organisation-wide corrective action teams (CATs) are under way at any one time to address both operational and strategic issues.

Internal review

  4.7.2  VI continuously look for ways to improve effectiveness and to make a real improvement to road safety and environmental standards, fair competition and, particularly in relation to the MOT scheme, to consumer protection. VI continually re-appraise activities through both scheme and operational reviews and through an internal audit programme to check that unnecessary regulation is eliminated, that customer needs and wants are identified and addressed and that the most effective services and regulatory activities are undertaken. These reviews are, in line with the Modernising Government agenda, currently being built into a programme of Better Quality Service reviews.

Meeting new challenges

  4.7.3  The government's road casualty reduction targets for 2010 also challenge all relevant organisations to find ways of reducing the number of accidents and the severity of their outcome. Many of VI's activities contribute to the achievement of these targets and have led to changes in our priorities. Driver fatigue is thought to be a major contributor to accidents. Speed is undoubtedly a factor in the severity of accidents and speeding heavy lorries and coaches are a particular hazard. VI has procured specialised test equipment capable of checking that tachographs and speed limiters are correctly set and have not been tampered with.

  4.7.4  VI's move to a greater emphasis on educational and advisory activities is aimed at improving compliance at source (for example by providing easy-to-understand information in paper and video formats, by visiting operators to pose and answer questions on regulatory requirements). This culture shift will assist in delivering better vehicle and driver standards.

Enforcement

  4.7.5  VI are increasingly looking to develop links with other enforcement agencies to close loopholes through which illegal operators manage to continue to operate. As part of the DVO review, VI are looking to see how they can (within the requirements of the data protection legislation) share data and improve our targeting. VI are increasingly sharing data with European Union colleagues which is helping us to tackle operators who have chosen to "flag out" (register as an operator in another country) to ensure that these operators are in fact registered and are abiding by EU legislation


 
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