Worse to come on transport funding, say MPs

Louise Ellman chairman of the House of Commons Transport Committee
Louise Ellman chairman of the House of Commons Transport Committee
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YORKSHIRE’S raw deal on funding for major transport projects could be about to get worse because of changes to the way central government money is shared out, MPs claimed today.

A report by the House of Commons Transport Committee says the underfunding of transport schemes outside London in recent years “cannot be allowed to continue”.

But it fears a new emphasis on competition for funds, created to raise the quality of bids, could increase the disparity between the capital and regions such as Yorkshire and the Humber.

The new arrangements introduced next year mean local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) will compete against each other for most of the money handed out for transport projects under the Local Growth Fund.

LEPs, made up of partnerships between councils and local businesses, will be judged on the economic plans they submit, with a focus on their ability to deliver economic growth.

Members of the transport committee say local authorities with more resources could be favoured under the new system and that a lot of money could be wasted on unsuccessful bids.

The report said regional economies may be put at a disadvantage because they are not sufficiently well developed to allow the private sector to invest significant sums in local transport schemes.

Launching the report, committee chairman Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: “The Government has again changed the system for distributing money to local areas for major transport projects, with much more emphasis now on competition for funding.

“This will not necessarily help regions get a fairer share of transport funding and could make the situation worse.”

The committee called for the new arrangements to be reviewed by the end of the next Parliament. Last year a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank claimed Londoners will benefit 16 times as much per head on transport spending as people living in Yorkshire and the Humber.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority chairman Peter Box said his county “suffered from a legacy of underspending on transport by successive governments”. He said: “We need ministers and governments to meet their commitments on the devolution of transport funding and to heed the recommendations of the transport committee today”.

Nigel Foster, President of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said under-investment in the city’s transport network “has probably meant we’ve not reached our full potential”.

He said: “The significant levels of investment in London and other cities around the world has supported economic growth, more jobs and increasing prosperity across a wide area, which are key parts of what the City Region is trying to achieve through its economic plan.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said it had invested more than £6 billion in 2011/12 alone developing transport infrastructure outside London.

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