LABOUR HAS deferred regional transport funding decisions until late May to stop congestion becoming a major issue in next month's local elections.
Transport secretary Alistair Darling has pushed back an announcement on how English regions can spend transport cash until after the 4 May elections. He was expected to report by the end of next week.
The regions submitted strongly worded advice to the Department for Transport in January. Many threatened to drop major schemes unless they were given more funds.
Highways Agency director of network strategy Hillary Chipping revealed the deferred decision this week when setting out the Agency's business plan for 2006/07.
Seven Highways Agency schemes including the dualling of the A1 north of Newcastle have already been dropped as a result as the regional process (NCE 2 February).
'The regions faced some difficult funding decisions and these are basically schemes which they didn't give priority to over the next five years. So we've put them on hold, ' said Chipping.
Regions were given budgets for up to 2008 and indicative funding until 2016. They were asked to choose between major local transport plan schemes and regional Highways Agency projects.