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Local Transport Funding

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 28 October 2010

3. What assessment he has made of the likely effects on local transport schemes of the implementation of the proposed reduction in funding for local government resource grants. (19914)

The majority of transport resource funding will now be paid through formula grant. It is for local authorities to decide how that funding is spent according to their priorities. As the Secretary of State mentioned a few moments ago, I am also establishing a local sustainable transport fund to help local authorities support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions.

I thank the Minister for that answer. The Government’s growth strategy is based on wildly over-optimistic predictions for private sector job creation. How does the Minister think a 28% cut in local government transport funding, the end to ring-fencing across local government funding in general and putting on ice the bus rapid transit scheme will help a city like Bristol, which is plagued by congestion and a lack of transport infrastructure?

I hardly know where to start with that question. The fact is that 300,000 jobs have been created in the private sector in the last three months. It does not help the economy if Members talk it down as the hon. Lady does. It is also not true that the bus rapid transit system in Bristol has been put on ice. The section from Ashton Vale to Temple Meads in Bristol city centre is in the development pool and the south Bristol link phases 1 and 2 are in the pre-qualification pool. I hope very much that Bristol city council will work on those schemes in conjunction with my Department.

Given this week’s disappointing news for south Devon of the Kingskerswell bypass being put into the pool rather than being approved after a 50-year campaign for it, might the local authority be able to reduce the cost of it by taking advantage of tax increment financing and regional growth funding? Will local councils be able to use them to help meet the costs of such important road schemes?

I know that my hon. Friend is very keen on this scheme, and that he and other local Members have campaigned strongly in favour of it. We are certainly open to innovative ideas to find alternative funding, whether through the regional growth fund or the incremental system to which he referred, and I look forward to examining those options with his local county council.

In recent years a combination of local schemes and national action has resulted in a very significant reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads. Has any assessment been made of the implications of the cut in local funding for the lives of people on our roads?

The hon. Lady has considerable knowledge of transport issues as a result of her role on the Transport Committee, and I think she understands that what the Government are doing is freeing up local councils to spend their own money rather than determining the number of grant streams centrally. There have been 26 grant streams for transport funding for local authorities, but that will be reduced to four. That will enable local authorities to prioritise matters in their own areas, as they should do as democratically elected bodies.

The A160 scheme has enjoyed the support of local government in north Lincolnshire, but it has now been delayed until 2015. Will the Minister meet me and a cross-party delegation of local MPs to discuss this important scheme in more detail?

It is my practice always to accede to requests for meetings from Members of Parliament, so I will ask my office to fix that up.