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06.03.13

Transport devolution should be ‘a given’ – LGA

Devolving transport control to local authorities could deliver over twice the return on investment, the LGA has suggested.

A new report, ‘The road to growth: The case for greater local influence over transport’ – is being launched today at an LGA Town Hall Summit on transport devolution which is being attended by Transport Minister Norman Baker.

Commissioned by the LGA and conducted by Localis, it recommends replacing the Highways Agency with sub-regional bodies and combining existing transport funding streams into a single pot which councils can apply to invest in transport and infrastructure projects.

The majority of transport funding is currently held centrally, with local government receiving around 10%. And while typical business cases for investment offer a 2:1 return, NAO analysis of local schemes has found that over a quarter offer 5:1 returns.

Successful case studies of governments devolving responsibility for transport include Barcelona and Munich, the report highlights.

Cllr Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said the Government needs to “fully release the reins” to allow local government to release the full potential of transport investment.

He added: “At the moment, investment and innovation is being stifled by a burdensome top-down approach by the Department of Transport and Highways Agency and a confusing and wasteful myriad of different funding.

“Local authorities are already showing they can get far more bang for their buck with transport spending. They’re best placed to manage and invest in roads and integrate buses, trains, trams, cycling schemes and so on to suit the diverse needs of businesses and communities.”

Alex Thomson, chief executive of Localis, said: “The report highlights some of the alternatives to a centralised transport system, with Europe far in advance of the UK in this respect. On the continent, transport devolution is seen as a given. The current Government has been very positive in pursuing a localism agenda across a number of policy areas, and it is time they extended this approach to transport.

“With transport being an essential part of stimulating and maintaining thriving local economies, greater local influence over commissioning and new flexibilities around infrastructure finance are needed if the Government wants to empower local authorities to get Britain growing again.” 

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