TRANSPORT SECRETARY Alistair Darling this week made his strongest statement yet that local authorities not delivering transport improvements on time would face funding cuts.
In an exclusive interview with NCE Darling warned that councils taking a 'relaxed view' towards delivering the government's 10 year transport plan targets would have their Local Transport Plan budgets slashed.
'On education, councils are quite rightly held to account and they should be for transport as well, ' said Darling. 'I do feel quite strongly that if people do well we should reward them, and we should not be giving money to councils that are doing precious little.'
He added that councils must not expect guidance from him on developing schemes, such as congestion charging and workplace parking charges, but learn best practice from councils perceived by the government as 'successful', such as Edinburgh or Leeds.
Local authorities reacted angrily to Darling's claims this week.
Authorities in Berkshire, largely understood to be trailing in delivery of transport improvements, said the government did not appreciate how much they had been crippled by the skills shortage of engineers.
Slough Borough Council's head of transportation policy Chris Boylan said many of his planners had left for the higher salaries on offer at Transport for London.
Another council transport planner described Darling's comments as 'cheek'.
Responsibility lay with the government for not doing more to increase the cost of using cars in comparison to public transport costs, he said.
Transport 2000 director Stephen Joseph agreed that Darling was justified in criticising some councils, such as North Yorkshire and Wiltshire, for not delivering enough improvements.
But he also blamed the government for not supporting councils struggling to improve transport in the face of intense local opposition.