Local Transport Planning and Funding (HC 1120-iii)
Transport Committee 7 Jun 2006
Evidence given by Dr Stephen Ladyman, a Member of the House, Minister of State and Mr Bob Linnard, Director, Regional and Local Transport Policy Directorate, Department for Transport.
Q293 Mr. David Clelland: You mentioned the forthcoming Local Government White Paper. Could you say a bit more about what input your Department has had into that?
Dr Ladyman: We have discussions all the time with our colleagues, previously in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and now in the new department whose name escapes me for the moment. It is difficult to detail at this stage exactly the discussions we are having because clearly that would be breaking the confidentiality of discussions that go on between ministers and departments all the time.
Q294 Chairman: They must be very confidential if you cannot remember who you are talking to.
Dr Ladyman: I remember the people; it is just what they are called these days.
Q295 Mr. David Clelland: I accept that. I am not asking you to tell us what is in the White Paper in advance.
Dr Ladyman: It was a good try though.
Q296 Mr. David Clelland: In general, do you support the proposals to grant local and regional authorities more control over transport decision making?
Dr Ladyman: Yes.
Q297 Mr. David Clelland: You do?
Dr Ladyman: Yes and we are demonstrating that, to be fair to us, through the LTP2 process. The way it has evolved from TTP to LTP1 to LTP2 we are demonstrably putting more control and more influence in the hands of local people. We may not have gone far enough for you yet, but we are demonstrating by our actions that we do want to see that happen.
Q298 Mr. David Clelland: How would that control manifest itself on a regional level? Do you see the sort of quango model of the Transport for London type model or perhaps the more democratic passenger transport authority type model?
Dr Ladyman: You are asking me to speculate in areas where I would probably get into a great deal of trouble if I went into much detail. If you are asking me for an instinct, the passenger transport executive model, which as you point out has more democratic control, would clearly be much more appropriate in areas where, for example, there is not a mayor. TfL has the advantage that there is a democratically elected mayor who is responsible for TfL. Clearly in areas like Manchester there are major different authorities at the present time and there is not one democratically accountable body. If you are going to create a transport executive of some sort, it has to be representative of all the bodies which are going to feed into it.
Q299 Chairman: Dr Ladyman I am not going to let you get away with the suggestion that somehow or other they are not democratically elected. I am sure that is not what you mean. The fact that there are more of them than the one person in London does not mean that they are not democratically elected and therefore quite often they are capable, strange though it may seem, of working as a cooperative.
Dr Ladyman: I was just about to go on and make that very point.
Q300 Chairman: I am sure you were.
Dr Ladyman: They do have contributions from all of those democratically elected bodies, but one of the things that we have to look at, whether the Local Government White Paper will help us to do this or not one of the things we have to look at in transport terms is how we can improve the democratic accountability of those bodies, how we can make sure the political leadership of those bodies has greater influence and is more representative of the controls of the councils it comes from. Bear in mind that all of those councils might have different election regimes, they may have different political controls, all of these political controls will be in a state of flux, that transport schemes take many, many, many years to develop and bring to fruition and during that time many of the component parts of these authorities will have changed political leadership and faced other challenges along the way. It is how you pull all of that together and make something that actually can show real leadership and coherence in the long term that is a substantial challenge.
Q301 Mr. David Clelland: So you have had an input into the White Paper, but what about the comprehensive performance assessment? It has been suggested that greater priority would be afforded to transport by local councillors if transport had more weight in the CPA. What is your view on that?
Dr Ladyman: We have an input into the measures that are in the comprehensive performance assessment as well. The CPA is something that we also have an input into, but one of the reasons why we went down the LTP route was because we very much acknowledged the point that you are making that transport was not being given a sufficient priority by local authorities. There are many ways that you can deal with that. One is through the comprehensive performance assessment, but the other is to be more radical. The creation of the Local Transport Plans and moving to that way of making local authorities focus on these issues was our way of raising the priority in local councils and it has been extremely effective from that point of view, since there is some evidence that now councils are actually spending in some areas more than we are giving them for transport because they have recognised, as a result of the LTPs, the importance of transport to their areas and they are prepared to prioritise spending towards transport in a way that previously they had not.
Q302 Mr. David Clelland: When will the Department respond to local authorities' submissions on regional transport allocations?
Dr Ladyman: Do you mean the regional advice that they have just given us about where spending should go?
Q303 Mr. David Clelland: Yes.
Dr Ladyman: I cannot give you a precise date. It is actively being debated by ministers at the moment and it should not be very much longer.
Q304 Mr. David Clelland: We know that average transport capital expenditure per head over the next five years is expected to be £455, but of course there are huge discrepancies across the United Kingdom as you might be aware. I did make the point in a previous session of the Committee that, in the North East for instance, spending on road and rail infrastructure has increased by just 25 per cent over the last six years which is almost four times less than the national average and nine times less than London. Why are there such large discrepancies like that? Why are they tolerated?
Dr Ladyman: There are many different pressures. It is always a bit of an unfair comparison when everybody compares their own local spending against London, because London has particular pressures. For allocating the integrated transport block funding we have gone to a formula-based assessment that reflects need in order to address some of those issues. In deciding what the regional funding allocation is that you have just asked about in fact, we have a population-based formula for distributing the money. I hope we are moving in a direction that you would consider appropriate.
Q305 Mr. David Clelland: Do you think a population-based formula is always an accurate way of assessing the needs of an area?
Dr Ladyman: No and that is why for the integrated transport block grant we have gone to a much more complex formula that looks at issues like rurality and safety and other issues.
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
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