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South Yorkshire Rapid Light Transit System

Volume 264: debated on Monday 23 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received regarding the effect on local authority standard spending assessments of the South Yorkshire rapid light transit system. [36460]

I answered a question from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) on 22 May. I have had no more recent representations on this subject.

The Minister will be aware that today Sheffield is celebrating the completion of the rapid light transit system, the supertram. In my constituency, which is part of the South Yorkshire passenger transport authority, there is considerable concern about the impact on local authority budgets of debt charges arising from the cost of the supertram system. Is the Minister aware that, despite the fact that the Government agreed fully to fund the system, the debt charges were allocated to the budget of the four authorities that make up the South Yorkshire passenger transport authority? The charges are having a considerable effect on the spending powers of the four authorities. I understand that discussions are taking place—

Oh, shut up.

I understand that discussions with the Department are well advanced. Is the Minister able to give us any encouragement? Is he able to tell us whether the pressure on the standard spending assessments will be relieved for the forthcoming financial year?

I share the hon. Gentleman's pleasure that today marks the opening of the Hillsborough extension of the supertram system. I am pleased that it is now able to operate at its full potential. I understand that supertram is offering the residents of the area free travel for the next couple of days so that they can come to know what an excellent system is being offered.

I appreciate that there is concern about the way in which the financial arrangements impact on the capping levels of each of the member authorities of the passenger transport executive. The hon. Gentleman has raised the matter with me before. He will appreciate that it is a matter for negotiation between the local authorities and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's concerns.