Local communities and businesses could be given control of decisions and budgets for major local transport schemes, under proposals outlined in a new DfT consultation paper.
Launched on 31 January by Justine Greening (pictured), secretary of state for transport, the consultation aims to fully empower local areas by giving them new freedom and flexibility.
The Government believes that the previous Government’s Regional Funding Allocation process failed to give local people and communities proper transparency for decisions and control over spending. Investment decisions were taken centrally and it was a bureaucratic and inefficient system which hampered local enterprise and delivery.
Justice Greening said: “The Government has already made efficiencies on the programme of schemes inherited from this process. In total, schemes commencing construction in this Spending Review period are forecast to deliver benefits of around £8 for every £1 of public money spent, with a 34% reduction in the central Government contribution compared to previous plans.
“We now have the opportunity of developing a new system for beyond 2015. A system which ensures that the best outcomes are achieved for the economy whilst balancing the need for developing sustainably and reducing carbon emissions; a system which hands real power to local communities; and, a system which is fit for purpose in practical delivery terms.
“Proposals set out in the consultation paper include: using a population based formula to allocate funding rather than putting in place a costly bidding process; a locally led assessment process for prioritising schemes, reducing the role of central Government which many local areas perceive as costly, time-consuming and autocratic; and, putting Local Enterprise Partnership areas in the driving seat over which transport schemes are delivered.
“The Government is proposing to devolve decisions to democratically accountable local transport bodies involving Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities, which are given responsibility for establishing a prioritised programme of schemes for investment.
“These local transport bodies would oversee the delivery of individual schemes, but would not be the vehicle for delivery, which would remain with individual local authorities or other relevant delivery agencies.
“In return for greater devolution, central Government will need assurances on effective governance, financial management, accountability and the achievement of value for money – matters which businesses and local authorities do every day.
“In particular, the Government proposes that while local areas will have the freedom to decide their own priorities and appraise individual schemes, all schemes would need to follow the Transport Business Case framework and be appraised in line with webTAG, the Department’s best practice and well-evidenced guidance on transport appraisal and evaluation.”
The consultation will run from 31 January to 2 April, following which the DfT will consider responses and produce a summary report and set out the next steps.
Click here to read Justine Greening’s full statement.