Transport minister Andrew Jones has tacitly acknowledged there can be little guarantee of the £500m capital funding promised for local sustainable transport schemes over this parliament.
The money was pledged at the Spending Review last year, following the scrapping of the specific Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) - a programme that had proved popular with councils and provided £560m of government cash between 2011-2015.
But the Department for Transport has since confirmed to Transport Network the fresh £500m for 2015-2016 to 2020-2021 would be rolled into the Local Growth Fund, an un-ringfenced pot allocated to Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Minister Andrew Jones
Sustainable transport campaigners have pointed out that up until now the ‘vast majority’ of growth fund cash has not gone towards local sustainable transport schemes.
When questioned by Transport Network about guarantees at the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation’s (CIHT) annual conference, Mr Jones declined to re-commit to the £500m figure but suggested more work was being done in other areas and forthcoming plans would give ‘much reassurance’.
The minister said: ‘You will see money spent on sustainable transport in a number of different ways. That [£500m] budget is going into the Local Growth Fund and we are trying to not ringfence budgets as much as we have in the past, it is a part of aligning accountability and responsibility. Ringfencing of budgets, or having targets, were effectively a subtle means of national control over local people. We are trying to remove some of those barriers.
‘So local decision-making will be a feature but you will see significant investment, there is no question about that. We have sustainable transport in the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) for instance, where you will see cycling facilities invested in; you will see it as part of rail investment; you will see it when we publish our cycling and walking strategy, which will be happening quite shortly. This is work in progress, you will see some documents very shortly which will provide much reassurance.’
The comments come after Mr Jones told council directors at ADEPT’s annual conference last year that the Department was lobbying hard to keep the LSTF in the Spending Review.