Devolving local major transport schemes

The DfT’s proposal to give local communities control for decisions affecting local transport is a radical change, and has generated a diverse range of views from stakeholders. It proposes devising a new system - devolving capital funding for local major transport schemes to democratically accountable local transport bodies. Transport Business looks at some of the already published responses to the consulation, which ended at the beginning of April this year

In January this year, the DfT produced its ‘Devolving local major transport schemes’ paper to take forward discussion about a new system for prioritising and funding local major schemes after the end of the current Spending Review period. It brings together into one paper a discussion on the structure, sizing, configuration, governance and accountability arrangements for a new system beyond 2014-15.
Initial informal consultation with a range of local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships in England (outside of London) has helped shape the paper and identify important issues, which are subject to a range of different views.
The current system for prioritising major schemes is a competitive process, put in place in October 2010 to deliver an affordable programme of schemes left over from the previous Government’s Regional Funding Allocation. As local major transport schemes can take on average four years to move from business case to the start of construction, it is vital that the Government considers this change now, in order that schemes be ready for delivery after 2015.

Read the full consultation document -

The paper sets out the context, rationale and objectives for forming local transport bodies. It also considers the options for distributing funding, facilitating strategic investment and the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships in decision-making.

Responses were invited from local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and representative groups, with the consultation period closing on April 2nd. Following receipt Transport Bodies, as set out in the scheme.”
“We believe these local transport bodies should be democratically accountable and representative. However, it is essential that the development of major schemes fit with existing statutory plans, as it would be inappropriate for local transport bodies to develop new ‘wish lists’ of major schemes that don’t fit with existing development plans and strategies.”
“These local transport bodies will need to be correctly balanced to take account of local circumstances. Encouragement should be given for representatives from other relevant bodies to be involved such as; district councils, the Highways Agency, Network Rail, local Chambers of Commerce and other key transport groups. This would provide transparency in the decision-making process, and accountability to the local community.”
In addition, CIHT supports the proposal for the abolition of the £5m threshold for major schemes and agrees that local transport bodies should be free to allocate the devolved funding to smaller (sub-£5m) schemes, particularly as the total funding available to each area will be relatively small

Read the full response from CIHT -

Planning Officers Society
The Planning Officers Society believes that the core proposal represents a significant improvement over recent methods, and will do much for local enterprise and delivery. POS wholly supports the core proposal, but in a written response, the Society stated: “The implementation timetable appears very challenging if by December 2012 Local Transport Bodies are to submit proposals for sign off of governance, financial management, accountability and meeting and testing Value for Money when the indicative allocations will only be known in August 2012.”
“Key issues are the establishment of the LTB, which could be contentious; agreeing the relationship with the LEP (and establishing appropriate governance arrangements); having in place sufficient officer support and fulfilling the assurance/accountability/appraisal and evaluation requirements; and agreeing the post 2015 priorities. In areas where there is considerable experience of joint working between the LTAs and were the LTB to comprise only those LTAs, with advice on priorities provided by the LEP, then it is more likely that the proposed implementation timetable could be met. Increasing the scope of LTB membership beyond the authorities that are concerned with delivery of transport schemes would result in complication and delay, making unachievable the proposed December 2012 deadline for submission of proposals for governance, financial management, accountability and meeting and testing value for money.”

Read the full response from the Planning Officers Society here -

Part of the response fromn the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) reads: “There are mixed views across the ADEPT membership on the retention or otherwise of the £5m threshold for major schemes. Whilst ADEPT supports the notion of being able to spend its allocation on schemes that it considers important regardless as to whether they cost less than £5m, there remains a concern that there may be a temptation to divert away from ‘major’ interventions on the basis that it would be easier to reach consensus on a package of much smaller measures which may not have the impact of a major scheme. 
“ADEPT would welcome guidance on this which would help reinforce the importance of major schemes, but at the same time still allows the flexibility to introduce the truly important interventions regardless of cost.  As things stand there is a potential that the new devolved arrangements could end up overlapping unnecessarily with the LTP programme.  More joint discussion with the DfT is needed on this issue, but top slicing existing funds goes contrary to the spirit of the new devolved responsibilities.”

Read the full response from ADEPT here -

Campaign to Protect Rural England
The CPRE, which works to influence how we plan our towns and cities to make them better places to live and work, stated: “The Eddington Transport Study (2006) highlighted the need to avoid ‘solutions looking for a problem’. While the current economic circumstances may encourage a perception that ‘something needs to be done’ and quickly, this should not be allowed to justify spending on out-dated road schemes. Extensive evidence and experience demonstrates that the best outcomes are secured when a wide range of options are considered.
The CPRE continued: “Recent policy changes, such as rail devolution and changes to bus policy, significantly increase the sustainable transport choices available and as a result the benefits achievable from a greater emphasis on initial option generation that takes these choices fully into account. The legal requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will make this necessary: the National Transport Model 2011 shows, for example, that in 2035 on ‘business as usual’ trends, emissions from surface transport will at most be 10% lower than the 1990 baseline, despite the Climate Change Act 2008 requiring cuts of at least 80% by 2050.”

Read the full response from CPRE here -

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