The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report which suggests that cuts to local authority funding could lead to a worsening in the quality of the UK’s roads.
The report, ‘Funding for local transport: an overview’, identifies issues and risks which may arise as the Department for Transport (DfT) devolves more control over funding and delivery of transport services to local bodies.
The DfT has recently announced proposals to devolve funding for major transport schemes to new local transport bodies and is also consulting on devolving bus funding and some responsibilities for rail services to local authorities.
In its report the NAO, the Government’s spending watchdog, calls on the DfT to clarify its approach as it implements these changes and moves into the new ways of working. This includes being clearer on who is accountable for local transport funding and how they will be held to account.
The report says that while DfT funding to local authorities has remained stable following the 2010 Spending Review and Autumn Statement, there has been a 28% real terms fall in grants from the Department for Communities and Local Government over the spending review period. It warns that as councils have commitments such as providing subsidised bus fares, which are largely beyond their control, spending on highway maintenance is likely to fall.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: "As the DfT devolves more funding to a local level, it needs to make sure it has the appropriate assurance over the spending.
“It also needs a clear plan of action establishing how it will identify and intervene in cases of operational or financial failure in transport provision."
In a BBC News report on this topic, the DfT welcomed the NAO report, saying: "We agree that in taking forward decentralisation, it is important to ensure there is appropriate transparency and accountability at the right levels, to drive value for money.
"For example, we are applying these principles in developing the detailed assurance framework for devolution of local major transport schemes."
Click here for more information, including the full report, on the NAO website.