Transport infrastructure in some parts of the UK may get left behind under the new system to be used to share out central Government money for local major transport schemes, according to the Transport Committee.
The warning came with the launch of the report of a Transport Committee inquiry that looked at new arrangements which, from 2015, will see local decisions on transport spending devolved to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which bring local authorities and businesses together to decide on investment priorities.
The report, ‘Local transport expenditure: Who decides?’, talks of ‘inequality’ between the amount of money spent on transport projects in London compared with the rest of the country.
It also concluded that competitive bidding for funds might result in wasted expenditure on unsuccessful bids and could favour better resourced authorities.
It also suggests that “strategically significant transport projects may not be funded if they do not deliver immediate benefits for LEPs or local authorities”.
The Transport Committee says that the “key test of the new arrangements is whether transport spending is distributed more equitably across England”.
Launching the report, Louise Ellman MP, chair of the Transport Committee, said: “Far less money is spent on transport projects outside London than in the capital. This inequality has gone on for too long and has to change.
“For example, IPPR says that transport infrastructure spending is £2,500 per head in London compared with £5 per head in the north east. Even on the Government’s figures, transport spending per head in London is more than twice that in the English regions.
“The Government has again changed the system for distributing money to local areas for major transport projects, with much more emphasis now on competition for funding. This will not necessarily help regions get a fairer share of transport funding and could make the situation worse.
“Those LEPs which are well organised and resourced will have an advantage in bidding for funds. Other areas may lose out as a result.
“The Government’s focus on using competition to bring in private sector funding for projects could disadvantage the regions, where there tends to be less private sector money available compared with London.
“DfT must also make sure that strategically significant schemes such as access to ports don’t get overlooked, and that areas covered by a number of Local Enterprise Partnerships do not miss out because of fragmentation.”