Trans05-06 Press Notice71

PRESS RELEASE

Publication of Report:

Local Transport Planning and Funding

Local should mean local. This was the conclusion of the House of Commons Transport Committee's report Local Transport Planning and Funding, published today.

The Committee's report recognised that the Local Transport Plan framework introduced in 2000 was an improvement on the former system, but was not without shortcomings. The report states that the tension between the Department for Transport's central control of funding and planning decisions, and the aspirations of local authorities to have more autonomy was principal among these.

Chairman of the Transport Committee Gwyneth Dunwoody said: "The Government needs to be clear about the relationship between the Department for Transport and local authorities. Local councils are currently responsible for making transport improvements, without having the right tools to deliver. The Department for Transport sets the priorities, scores the Local Transport Plans, and awards the funding for Major Schemes. Under this system, little about the local transport plan framework is truly local."

The Committee welcomed the significant injection of capital funding for transport improvements€”but expressed disappointment with the scale of change actually achieved. Between 2001-02 and 2005-06 transport investment totalled £8 billion€”a 100% increase over the previous five years; but public transport use, cycling, local road congestion, climate change emissions and local air quality, are all falling short of Departmental targets.

In its report, the Committee identified some of the obstacles to more radical improvements. A shortage of revenue funding compared to capital investment created particular difficulties for authorities. Schemes and services could not be staffed, promoted or maintained. Gwyneth Dunwoody said: "It is ridiculous that brand new bus lanes can be built but a lack of revenue means that local authorities cannot afford to run services. Similarly once a new cycle lane is provided it must be maintained. Capital and revenue funding must be much more closely integrated."

The bidding and appraisal process is also criticised by the Committee for its vast waste of public money. The inquiry found that work preparing a scheme could cost 5-15% of the total scheme costs, even before the proposal had been approved by the Government. Attempts by the DfT to micromanage Major Schemes added to cost and delay.

Commenting, Gwyneth Dunwoody said: "Too much waste of resources results from the way the Department for Transport interacts with local authorities. Money wasted in this process could have been better spent delivering actual improvements. The bidding process must be made more efficient and closer collaboration between local and central officials should be established."

The report calls on the Government to give more control to local transport authorities. It suggests that the threshold for Government funding and appraisal of schemes should double from £5m to £10m. The report recommends that local authorities should be free to prioritise local objectives such as economic regeneration, without being penalised by the DfT in the annual assessments. It also suggests that the potential to use locally-raised resources for transport improvements should be explored.

The Chairman Gwyneth Dunwoody said: "The Local Government White Paper, published earlier this week, promised a rebalancing of the relationship between central government, local government and local people. We hope to see this lead to real transport improvements."

The report called on the Government to make the Transport Innovation Fund more widely available for schemes judged to be of local and regional importance. Chairman of the Transport Committee Gwyneth Dunwoody said: "It is confounding that having taken the pains to set up a coherent local transport planning system just six years ago, the Department has now opted to undermine it so fundamentally, by making available millions of pounds of funding for just two objectives, irrespective of actual local needs."

Notes to editors

The Transport Committee's 12th Report of the 2005-06 Session, Local Transport Planning and Funding (HC 1120), will be published on Sunday 29 October at 00:01am. Media representatives who would like to receive a PDF copy of the report should contact Select Committee Media Officer Laura Kibby on 020 7219 0718 or 07917 488 557.

Strong and Prosperous Communities - The Local Government White Paper was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 26 October 2006.

Members of the Committee: Gwyneth Dunwoody (Chairman) (Crewe and Nantwich), David Clelland (Tyne Bridge), Jeffrey M Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Clive Efford (Eltham), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby), John Leech (Manchester Withington), Eric Martlew (Carlisle), Lee Scott (Ilford North), Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley), David Wilshire (Spelthorne).

Press Notice 71/2005-06 29 October 2006