DfT consultation proposes local transport bodies, including LEPs, budgetary control over schemes in their area
Local communities and businesses could be given control of decisions and budgets for major local transport schemes in their areas, under proposals announced for consultation by transport secretary Justine Greening recently.
The new system could potentially see decisions on capital funding for local schemes – including new local roads, public transport schemes, better pedestrian routes, and new local rail stations – devolved to democratically accountable local transport bodies.
Currently central government must approve all schemes over £5m. The government is proposing that from 2015 local transport bodies will be able to decide for themselves how to spend their money on priorities best suited to their local needs without Whitehall approval.
The primary role of local transport bodies – involving both Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and local authorities – would be to agree, manage and oversee the delivery of a prioritised programme of transport schemes from 2015 onwards.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is spending around £1.7bn on local transport projects between 2011 and 2015. The consultation proposes allocating funding to local transport bodies by formula rather than a competitive bidding process.
In return for devolution, the bodies would need to assure the government of governance and financial management arrangements, accountability for decisions and achieving value for money.
“We want a system which is much more responsive to local needs and it makes good sense to give local residents and passengers a greater say in the transport infrastructure that they rely on so much,” said Greening.
“These proposals could hand real power to communities so they can make locally accountable decisions on what transport improvements are needed in their area. This is a key plank to our localism agenda, freeing local authorities from central government control, so I look forward to responses from across the country.”
The DfT has said it intends to publish a range of indicative allocations per individual LEP area by August this year. There are currently 39 LEP, tasked with determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive growth and create local jobs.
The DfT’s consultation ‘Devolving local major transport schemes’, closes at 1700hrs on April 2, 2012. To access a copy, visit www.dft.gov.uk/consultations and to respond, write to Karl Murphy, Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR or email: [email protected]