Spending plan delay 'putting pressure on councils'


The head of council directors’ body ADEPT has called for 'early clarity' from the Government on its spending plans, and faster progress on enabling local authorities to deal with issues like pavement parking and moving traffic violations.

Speaking to Transport Network ahead of ADEPT’s autumn conference, Place Leadership in a Perfect Storm, Mark Kemp said that while its themes of people, place and planet, reflect his priorities during his year as ADEPT president, the phrase ‘perfect storm’ arose from the turbulent events of the last few months.

Mr Kemp, who is executive director of environment and transport at Hertfordshire County Council, said the delay to the chancellor’s fiscal plan, which will now be delivered as a full Autumn Statement later this month, would put pressure on local government.

He said: The local government cycle is that over this period, we should be working out what we’re going to be doing next financial year. Members are legally obliged to agree a balanced budget.

‘The longer that uncertainty goes on, the more pressure is put on local authorities to work out that solution in a very short period of time – and potentially the more abortive work is done, as people try to second guess what’s going to come out. That is real challenge. Early clarity would be really helpful.’

He added: ‘I’m sure the chancellor has valid reasons why he’s delayed it.’

Mr Kemp said: ‘We need to work out how we can be as creative as possible to mitigate the impacts of what’s likely to be lower spending power. We also need help from government – some of those flexibilities may well help us address some of the challenges, if the opportunity arises.’

He explained: ‘Some of the more bureaucratic hoops that we jump through to get permission to do things could perhaps be relaxed. Government recently announced the ability for local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences. At the moment, individual authorities have to go through a consultation process and submit that [to government].

‘I guess my question is, having done 12 schemes, having done it for 12 authorities and seen what happens, is there not now the justification to remove that need to go and seek additional permission to enact and allow authorities if they so wish to take on those powers.’

Speaking to Transport Network as a government reshuffle saw some Department for Transport ministers who had only been appointed in September being replaced, Mr Kemp cited the department’s consultation on pavement parking, which closed two years ago this month, as an example of the disruption caused by the constant churn of ministers.

He said: ‘That is somewhere in the system and I think the changes over the last few months have made that more difficult than we would have liked. We don’t yet know what government’s view is going to be, but it’s an area we’re quite keen on, especially given our desires as local authorities to promote active travel and the challenges that pavement parking presents to that.’

The ADEPT Autumn Conference will take place on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 November at the Hilton Hotel, Leeds.

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