'We would be better off with the English’ - furore over Welsh centralisation


Welsh local government figures have raised concerns that transport decision making is being over-centralised, with one critic even suggesting they would be better off teaming up with English regions and 'getting out of Wales altogether'.

The issues arose again recently after the Welsh Government tried to stop local authorities including rail or trunk road schemes in their Local Transport Plans, which had to be submitted for government approval by Saturday {31 Jan}.

Several South Wales authorities ignored the injunction in their joint draft plans, with Caerphilly CBC officers stating it was important to list rail schemes in the LTP ‘for the sake of completeness’.

The LTPs replace the regional plans of the Regional Transport Consortia, abolished last April by Welsh transport minister Edwina Hart, who regarded them as an ‘additional layer of bureaucracy’.

Tony Sharps, a former chairman of the Taith RTC in North Wales, said: ‘Edwina Hart is behaving like [a centralist] Robin Hood, taking everything from the local authorities and giving it to Cardiff.’

Mr Sharps, an independent member of Flintshire CC, added: ‘Wales has been going backwards since devolution. I never thought I would hear myself saying it. We should devolve ourselves and join up with Merseyside and Cheshire – get out of Wales altogether.’

A Welsh Government spokesman said its draft National Transport Plan included priorities for rail and trunk road.

‘Local authorities are producing LTPs that will set out their priorities for investment in local transport. They have been given flexibility to group together or submit separate plans as best fits their needs,’ he said.

ATCO Cymru chairman Richard Cope told Transport Network: ‘The influence that neighbouring councils are now having on the development of major infrastructure schemes, which continue to operate in a regional context, is much reduced.’

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