£4.7bn local transport cash to support 'smaller cities and towns'

26/02/2024
Chris Ames

Local authorities in the North and Midlands have a year to prepare plans for a £4.7bn Local Transport Fund, which is mainly capital funding and can be used for road schemes.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed the allocations for individual local authorities from the cash, which covers seven years and has been reallocated from planned spending on HS2 following its curtailment in October.

Authorities covering smaller cities, towns, and rural areas in the North of England will receive £2.5bn and those in the Midlands will get £2.2bn between 2025 and 2032 to improve local transport.

The DfT said the decision to delay the cash until 2025 was to ensure local authorities have 'enough time to develop their funding plans and prepare to hit the ground running'.

Over its seven year horizon, the funding will be on average at least nine times more than the local authorities currently receive through the integrated transport block, government officials said.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak ‘is expected to call on ministers and MPs to hold local authorities to account to ensure the funding is used appropriately and that the voices of local people are heard when decisions are made on where this funding goes and how this funding is spent’.

The DfT said it will publish advice for local councils and transport authorities to help them develop 'ambitious' plans to improve local transport infrastructure in their areas.

Ministers did give some indication of the kind of ‘transformative and ambitious’ transport improvements they were looking for, including:

  • building new roads and improving junctions
  • installing or expanding mass transit systems
  • improving roads by filling in potholes and better street lighting for personal safety
  • improving journey times for car and bus users by tackling congestion
  • increasing the number of EV chargepoints
  • refurbishing bus and rail stations
  • improving streets so they are safer to walk children to school and increasing accessibility.

‘Councils will work with local MPs and will be held to account by the government as well as their communities to make sure the money is spent promptly and effectively. Local councils will be expected to publish their delivery plans for which projects they wish to invest in,’ DfT officials said.

Mr Sunak said: ‘Through reallocating HS2 funding, we’re not only investing billions of pounds directly back into our smaller cities, towns and rural areas across the North and Midlands, but we are also empowering their local leaders to invest in the transport projects that matter most to their communities - this is levelling up in action.’

The DfT said the cash will be predominantly capital and will include a resource element to ensure that councils can deliver their plans. Some authorities that are due to be part of City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements will not receive any LTF cash.

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: ‘Councils around the North of England will always be able to spend vital capital for projects, but as government cut capital investment by a third for the next five years in the last Budget to pay for the National Insurance cut, and the parts of HS2 cancelled hadn’t started to be built yet, there is actually no more capital to spend anytime soon.

‘Unless they delay again the long promised new hospitals or school rebuilding projects the government is making promises based on sums which don’t add up.’

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