Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Local Government Association (TYP 49)

  1.  The Association welcomes the opportunity to comment on this inquiry. However, the time given for written submissions is inadequate for any detailed consideration to be given to the large number of questions asked. The inquiry has been brought to the attention of the Association's member authorities, and of local authority officer societies. It is likely that they will find responding within the time given equally as difficult, especially in view of the intervening holiday break.


  2.  It is inevitable that assumptions made about developments which affect demand for and use of various modes of transport and of transport infrastructure will need to be re-visited over any 10 year period. Political and international events not directly related to domestic transport policy can affect both demand and costs. This is particularly the case when some of the assumptions relate to high levels of private sector investment, over which the Government may have influence, but not full control. The Association understands that the 10 Year Plan will be flexible enough to allow regular reviews to take place, for example, of whether the targets are likely to be met by the initiatives put in place. This is the case with local authority five year Local Transport Plans, and indeed is a key element for their continued funding through the capital grant system. On the other hand, firm commitments in the 10 Year Plan to deliver on major improvements to, for example, the railway network and local road maintenance, which will take a number of years to deliver, must not be affected by any changes to assumptions.

  3.  The Association is not able to give any estimate of how many congestion charging schemes are likely to be introduced and when. The legislation was not in place outside London at the time of publication of the Plan and the DTLR's formal guidance to authorities on how to manage the more complex schemes has not been published. This is likely to have considerable bearing on the extent to which the option is taken up at local level. Similarly, evidence of successful operation of initial congestion charging schemes, in both traffic management and political terms, is likely to encourage additional authorities to give the option further consideration. The recent lack of clarity by the Government about its views on the Mayor's London proposals will be affecting the consideration likely to be given by other authorities. Assumptions made in the 10 Year Plan about the implementation of policies for which legislation was not in place at the time of publication, such as the number of congestion charging schemes to be in operation of the Plan's period, are bound to be reliant to a degree on subsequent events proceeding as expected. The intensity of political debate on national transport policy is high at the moment and this is certain to have some effect on future major policy proposals put forward by all of the main political parties.


  4.  The SRA has just published its Rail Plan, with many cross-references to the 10 Year Plan's targets. The LGA has not had the opportunity to examine the Plan in detail before submitting these comments and it cannot give any estimate as to the effect of the contents of the Plan on private sector confidence. The Rail Plan mentions that there will be an extra £4.5 billion provided to rail over the 10 year period. The Association would hope that this is indeed "extra" and not a transfer of resources from commitments previously given in other parts of the 10 Year Plan.

  5.  Balancing between large and small scale schemes is always difficult, particularly over such a long period. Political and other factors may affect the number and type of major schemes which are given the go-ahead over the period. Of course, being given the "go-ahead" is not always quite the same as actually starting construction—a criticism often raised at some recurring rail proposals in recent decades. Small schemes are important, as they sometimes can deliver significant results for relatively small investment. The 10 Year Plan is mainly about capital spending and at local government level there have been concerns expressed on numerous occasions that the relationship between capital and revenue spending is often not as good as it might be. For example, all new roads will need cleaning and repairing. Whilst some 10 Year Plan resources have been allocated to local road structural repairs, firmer commitments from Government about longer-term relationships between capital and revenue spending are always welcome. The Government has instigated a number of temporary grant mechanisms in the transport field in recent years—arguably too many. Whilst these do ensure the provision of some readily identified additional local benefits, they do not come with a long-term funding guarantee. During the course of the Plan period the DTLR will need to think very carefully how the funding of these initiatives is to be re-integrated into the mainstream without the related new benefits potentially being lost.


  6.  If the Sub-committee identifies a small number of specific issues which it wishes to pursue in more detail as this inquiry proceeds, the Association would be willing to consider submitting supplementary evidence. In the meantime the Association hopes that these initial comments on some of the principal sections set out in the invitation for evidence are helpful

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