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Guidance delay could thwart cash claims

BILLIONS OF pounds of local transport cash could go unspent because the government is delaying vital guidance on how to claim it, local authorities warned this week.

They want Chancellor Gordon Brown to bring forward publication of the guidance when he makes his pre-budget spending statement next month.

Councils fear the lack of guidance means they will be unable to submit strong bids for the money when they produce their five yearly local transport plans (LTPs) next summer.

Transport secretary Alistair Darling said he was setting up a transport innovation fund for local authorities when he published his transport White Paper in July.

The fund will increase from around £250M in 2008/9 to around £3bn a year in 2015.

It will be used to fund 'innovative, bold and coherent transport measures - such as road pricing, measures to deliver modal shift, and better bus services, ' according the White Paper.

But since July no further information has been issued by the Department for Transport about how to tap into the fund. Instead, the DfT has said that details will be issued alongside the 2005 Budget.

Councils fear this will not leave them enough time to work up proposals. They have only until next summer to produce their next LTPs which will run from 2006 to 2011, overlapping with the launch of the fund.

'If the expectation is that proposals will be included in LTP submissions in July, details are going to have to come out pretty quickly, ' said Graeme Fitton, finance committee chairman of counties body CSS.

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