The 26 councils in the Key Cities group should be handed ‘fully devolved local transport funds' and control over bus and local rail regulation, a leading think tank has suggested.
ResPublica suggested the acceleration of devolution towards the mid-sized cities in the group, which includes international players such as Oxford and Cambridge, could help contribute to a £12.5bn saving for the Treasury over the next parliament.
In its new document Power, People and Places: A Manifesto for Devolution, the think tank states: ‘We estimate that with the full integration of public service budgets, the Key Cities Group could realistically aspire to reduce their combined contribution to the government’s annual borrowing requirement by £2.5bn a year.
‘This equates to a £12.5bn saving of public money for the Treasury over the course of the next parliament.’
It goes on to call for local powers and discretions over a range of highway violations - including yellow box and red light violations – 'with councils allowed to set level of fines and retain all related income within agreed parameters’.
The Government should also encourage more councils to use earn-back deals, such as tax incremental financing schemes for investment in transport and housing, it said.
Authors Phillip Blond and Mark Morrin point out that the current ‘disjointed and short-term’ nature of local government funding is a barrier to growth and to the delivery of the necessary transport improvements.
‘Many key cities face serious challenges in transport and mobility, in relation to both their internal and external connectivity,’ the document states, highlighting areas such as Cambridge, which despite playing an important role in the international stage, has to address some of its critical infrastructure needs, particularly housing and transport, or risk of losing its position.
ResPublica adds: ‘The need to connect national high cost projects (e.g. High Speed Rail) with sub-regional and within-city projects raises questions about the appropriate governance arrangements for transport policy.
‘The evidence from the devolved nations, as well as London, indicates that decentralising powers can transform investments in transport infrastructure.’