NIC calls for end to competitive bidding

Dominic Browne

Local government transport funding should be overhauled by pivoting away from competitive bidding and putting in five-year budgets, according to the National Infrastructure Commission, Westminster's main independent advisor on infrastructure.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) highlighted that as well as reforming the funding system, the amount spent on local transport outside London each year should increase by around 40%.

The Government should also support financial devolution with transport authorities given five-year budgets of their own as 'a reliance on competitive bidding is not compatible with government’s aims', the NIC said.

In its latest report focusing on the levelling up agenda in towns, the NIC argued: 'Government is not well placed to identify what the priorities are for any particular place, competitions may have the effect of directing funding towards authorities with administrative capacity rather than where the greatest infrastructure challenges really are, and it is very resource intensive for local authorities.'

It highlighted that local authorities find it difficult to develop and deliver effective infrastructure strategies due to the current funding system for local transport.

Around a third of local authority funding is provided by central government and the NIC understands the Department for Transport has around 15 different funding streams for local transport in towns at present.

These funds are often provided 'on a short term basis, have conditions on what funding can be spent on, and well over half of the available funding is allocated through competitive bidding', the NIC found adding that these conditions 'do not allow local authorities to plan effectively'.

In order to simplify the funding system, cash 'should be allocated on a simple basis that reflects population and the size of the transport network being managed' the report argues.

Extra funding could be targeted at areas where focused infrastructure investment is most likely to transform a town’s prospects - 'especially places that need better connections to a larger neighbouring settlement or have a particular economic opportunity at hand'.

There are 74 county councils and unitary authorities which are responsible for strategic transport planning, outside of combined authorities and London.

The commission noted that there may be opportunities for more transformative changes in some towns, particularly where they are close to cities or where infrastructure investment could enable a town to take advantage of changing economic conditions.

Social research for the report showed that improvements to roads were the main infrastructure priority for residents in towns. The car is the most popular mode of transport for journeys in England and the number of cars per household is higher in towns than cities.

It also notes that local public transport systems are important and deprived areas in some towns do not have good public transport services: 'taking public transport to work can require several forms of transport and there is a lack of early morning and evening services'.

'Better public transport connections, within towns and to nearby cities, were also ranked as a priority for many residents of towns in the Commission’s social research, particularly by those who lived in smaller towns and rural areas,' the report states.

A new innovation fund should also be created to support local trials and the government should publish the electric vehicle charging infrastructure strategy, 'without further delay, followed by a roadmap for the rollout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in towns'.

Our sister publication, the MJ has an article on this issue from Bridget Rosewell, a member of the NIC.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


  • Smart motorways' BCR problem
  • New lighting decision support tool



View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Highway Engineer - Reactive Maintenance

£35,354 - £40,506 incl. LWA, plus £963 car allowance
We make a difference to the environment we live in. Come and help us manage our highway infrastructure. Bracknell, Berkshire
Recruiter: Bracknell Forest Borough Council

Maintenance Manager

£43,857 to £47,782
We are currently looking for a strong candidate to take up the role of Maintenance Manager at Area 6 Boroughbridge. Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Engineer Sustainable Development

£32,234 - £36,922 per annum
To help support this key area of work, we are looking for an enthusiastic, experienced and forward thinking Engineer to... Stafford, Staffordshire
Recruiter: Staffordshire County Council

Senior Engineer (Streetscene)

£40,632 - £45,594
We are looking for 2 Senior Engineers to join our team to help deliver effective Capital and Revenue investments programmes to... Hackney, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Neighbourhood Highway Officers - West and North

£28,672 per annum
We are seeking a recruit two Neighbourhood Highway Officers (NHO), to be based in Okehampton and Tiverton, Devon. Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Warehouse Assistant/Driver

£20,903 - £24,491 per annum
The successful applicants will work as part of a team in a busy work environment to carry out warehouse and... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Planning Policy Manager

£61.470 - £64.704
Be part of Greenwich's vision to successfully accommodate a high level of sustainable growth, which... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Refuse Driver (Rolling Advert - applications checked weekly)

£30.032 - £31.610
It is an exciting time in Street Services at the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Be part of a team who are... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Traffic Engineer

£32,301 - £37,491
We are currently looking for an experienced Traffic Engineer to join our Design & Engineering team.  London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Apprentice Civil Engineering Technician

This opportunity is primarily based out of our West Offices in the heart of York. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Traffic Enforcement Manager

£40,869 - £43,860
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Refuse Driver

£30032 - £31610 per annum + (amount shown is salary plus allowances)
Refuse Driver (LGV Chargehand Driver)(starting total pay of £30,032 - this is made up of the base grade salary plus contractual overtime and allowance England, London, Woolwich
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Corporate Director (Environment, Communities & Leisure)

Up to £83,424 (pay award pending)
As one of our two Corporate Directors reporting to the Chief Executive to form our Senior Leadership Team your... Gedling, Nottingham
Recruiter: Gedling Borough Council

Senior Infrastructure Engineer

£45.834 - £56.141
This is a great role in a vibrant and growing team; we’re looking for people with significant experience in... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Parking Service Business Manager

£43,860 - £46,839
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Roads Technician

£18,812 - £23,791
This is a great opportunity for you to join Lincolnshire County Council's Technical Services Partnership as... Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Roads Engineer

£25,991 - £35,745
We are looking for people to join one of our three Roads teams, made up of around 30 friendly and enthusiastic professionals. Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Senior Project Manager

Up to £50,823 per annum
The role of this post is to oversee the project management, development and implementation of the County Council’s Major Transport Projects.. Leicestershire
Recruiter: Leicestershire County Council

Programme and Change Delivery Manager (Spatial Planning and Urban Design)

£43,833 - £53,115 Depending on skills and experience
Are you a change delivery manager with expertise in England’s local government spatial planning and urban design sector? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Bridges Manager – Highways and Transportation

£49,320 to £57,376
You will be responsible for... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video