Written statement to Parliament

Devolving local major transport schemes: next step

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Local councils and partnerships consultation proposals approved.

Earlier this year we launched a consultation paper setting out options for how we should devolve funding and prioritisation of local major transport schemes following this Spending Review period.

Transport is vitally important to local economies, and new infrastructure can provide the missing links that are often so crucial in getting economies moving and creating opportunities for new investment and employment.

We want to ensure that decisions on new transport infrastructure are made more efficiently, and at a more local level than previously. Local Enterprise Partnerships are well placed to understand how transport investment can be used to boost economic recovery and growth and that is why we want them, working with local authorities, to have a key role. Indeed more government funding was announced yesterday for Local Enterprise Partnerships to boost their ability to contribute to the growth and jobs agenda.

I am pleased to say that our consultation proposals were met with approval from the majority of respondents, particularly local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. A summary of the responses received was published in July. I have today published firm proposals, confirming that, in all of the key areas, the department will proceed on the basis as set out in the consultation paper.

I fully support the key objective of removing Whitehall from the process of making decisions on which local schemes should or should not go ahead. However we have a responsibility to ensure that the new local decision makers have arrangements in place to achieve the value for money that we know the right schemes can deliver and to take account of other important factors such as environmental impact. Most respondents accepted the need for robust local assurance frameworks and we will shortly publish detailed guidance on this, to enable local areas to submit their draft frameworks by December.

Transparency is also essential, to ensure that priorities are widely publicised and understood and can be effectively shaped by local people that have a key interest in them. Evaluation will also assume an even greater importance, to enable all parties to look critically at whether key outcomes were achieved and to learn lessons for future investment decisions.

We have asked local areas to confirm the geographical basis for their local transport bodies by 28 September. When they have done so I will set out indicative funding levels that each area should use as a planning assumption. I can confirm that the distribution of funding between different areas will be on a simple per-capita basis. The total level of funding available will of course be subject to decisions made in future spending rounds.

I look forward to working with local transport bodies over the coming months as we embark on this transition to a truly decentralised system and they begin developing their infrastructure plans for post 2015.