MONEY FROM 'above inflation' rises in fuel duty will be given to local authorities planning to introduce workplace parking or congestion charging, NCE has learned.
The Government has indicated that funds from the newly ring-fenced source (NCE 2 December) will go to councils which plan to introduce a charging regime, but first need to improve public transport.
A recent letter from the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions to local authorities in Greater Manchester indicates that money from the fuel duty increases - which would realise £230M for each percentage rise above inflation - would be used to fund the city's three proposed Metrolink extensions if a firm congestion or workplace parking charging plan was lodged with the DETR by 28 January. The £489M extensions would need £254M of public money.
The letter states: 'We would like to discuss with the Greater Manchester Authorities options for utilising the additional provision from the fuel duty fund available to those authorities bidding to pilot the new charging powers to undertake major transport improvements in advance of introducing charging schemes.'
Councils will learn more about government funding for public transport improvements from the Funding Development Partnership, a forum to be chaired by Transport Minister Lord MacDonald, which is due to hold its first meeting in early February.
MacDonald has already been told to work closely with Treasury Chief Secretary Andrew Smith in drawing up a timetable for funding transport proposals.
His task of developing new funding sources over the next six months was confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in a speech announcing a 10 year plan for transport.
Prescott said: 'Let me leave you in no doubt, our vision means more public money for transport, whether we spend it directly or in partnership with local authorities and the private sector.'
He added: 'The Government has acknowledged that current annual spending on transport infrastructure of £8bn, including £4bn from the private sector, £2bn from local authorities and £2bn from DETR, will have to rise.
'By next summer, once the spending review is complete, we will publish a comprehensive programme for change, mapping out an investment programme through to 2010.'