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GOVERNMENT TRANSPORT funding for local authorities is conditional on the delivery of integrated transport schemes which show the clear backing of local communities.
These were the strings attached to the Government's extra £700M for municipal engineers to spend over the next three years, set out by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions head of local transport plans Mike Jackson last week. Jackson's presentation to the Association of Muncipal Engineers annual conference was made before local authorities hand in their provisional one-year Local Transport Plans (LTPs) on 30 July.
He said: 'An additional £700M has been made available from the Government's comprehensive spending review but schemes must reflect the Government's sustainable transport aims. LTPs should mark a decisive shift in favour of public transport, walking and cycling.
'LTPs will need to command widespread local support if they are to achieve their full potential. Consultation will therefore be important to their success, allowing local groups and individuals to contribute to the emerging plan to ensure it reflects the interests of everyone.'
Jackson responded to claims that some communities did not support the principle of sustainable transport. Engineers had earlier outlined experiences of gaining provisional support for schemes aimed at reducing car use only to be attacked by locals when it dawned on them that their car journeys would be affected. The key to building consensus was to make links between traffic levels and quality of life issues. Determined campaigns would be needed on top of Government schemes to raise awareness, such as the 'Are you doing your bit?' campaign.
After the first LTP, continued funding would be dependent on clear performance targets being met. Jackson said: 'Plans should contain targets such as reducing the rate of road traffic growth. Targets will be set locally, reflecting local need, and will be monitored through annual progress reports to ensure results are delivered.'
Achieved objectives would be the key to unlock future funding to ensure that 'what local authorities put in to their plans are a guide to what is going to happen and not what you would like to happen'.
Working to clear targets, local authorities would now get a single block of revenue to spread across transport schemes as they saw fit. Councils could adapt their spending plans as circumstances changed throughout the year and 'would not have to come back to DETR seeking approval to shift spending'.
One month before delivery, draft LTPs 'already showed evidence of local authorities developing partnerships with local businesses and transport operators'. For those still writing the final version, Jackson advised more strategy and less detail. He said: 'Funding will be allocated on the strength of your strategy. The most common complaints I have had is that there is too much to do by the end of July. There is confusion as to how much detail to include in the plans. We do not want long lists but priority schemes should be identified. There is also great benefit in using examples and case studies of what you have done successfully in the past.'
Delegates still finishing their plans were encouraged to share drafts with Government officers in their area if they were unsure whether a realistic bid had been lodged. 'There is still some distance between what we and local authorities consider to be realistic bids. There is no benefit in over-bidding.'
Jackson promised further DETR guidance on LTPs early next year, after decisions on the one-year plans have been made in December. He said: 'It won't be possible to do everything in the first year which is why we have adopted this approach.'