Local communities and businesses could be given control of decisions and budgets for major local transport schemes in their areas, under proposals announced for consultation by Transport Secretary Justine Greening today.
The new system could potentially see decisions on capital funding for local schemes – including new local roads, public transport schemes, better pedestrian routes, and new local rail stations – devolved to democratically accountable local transport bodies.
Currently central government must approve all schemes over £5m. The Government is proposing that from 2015 local transport bodies will be able to decide for themselves how to spend their money on priorities best suited to their local needs without Whitehall approval.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said:
“We want a system that is much more responsive to local needs and it makes good sense to give local residents and passengers a greater say in the transport infrastructure that they rely on so much.
“These proposals could hand real power to communities so they can make locally accountable decisions on what transport improvements are needed in their area. This is a key plank to our localism agenda, freeing local authorities from central government control, so I look forward to responses from across the country.”
The primary role of local transport bodies – involving both Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities – would be to agree, manage and oversee the delivery of a prioritised programme of transport schemes from 2015 onwards.
The Department for Transport is spending around £1.7bn on local transport projects between 2011 and 2015. Today’s consultation proposes allocating funding to local transport bodies by formula rather than a competitive bidding process.
In return for devolution, the bodies would need to assure the Government of governance and financial management arrangements, accountability for decisions and achieving value for money.