The director general of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said there is ‘a lot of momentum’ in government to try to reform local transport finance.
Simon Ridley admitted there is ‘enormous fragmentation’ in local government financing and that the government has been trying to ‘bring funding streams together’ over recent years.
He highlighted transport and said: ‘There is a lot of momentum in trying to pull together how we think about and direct local transport spending.’
Speaking at the ADEPT annual conference, Mr Ridley that the issue of fragmented funding ‘can be applied over time to the work we want to do on industrial strategies’.
‘They are not an opportunity for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and local government to write another peice of paper. They are an opportunity to really set out the future priorities, the key investment needed for economic areas across the country to support productivity.
‘As well as guiding local investment [they can be] the means by which we in government can sensibly direct the money that DCLG, the Department for Transport and the Department of Education will have and to be a mechanism to challenge government to be co-ordinated.’
Public sector competitive bidding:
Highways questioned Mr Ridley about the frustrations caused by central government forcing councils to spend money on competitive bids for cash from funding pots.
‘There are clearly costs to competitive bidding processes.I certaintly don’t think they are in and of themselves not value for money and some people think there the only way to ensure vaue for money.’
However he did signal that the department was trying to move away from competitive bidding pots.
‘I don’t think we will completely remove all of them but that is the right direction of travel. I agree with the value of long-term stable money that councils can direct.’
Investing in the story
He went on to say there was a great desire in government to see and ‘entrepreneurial’ sector but councils had to build a ‘narrative’ around their plans.
‘The more authorities have thought about their story the easier it is to pass on money directly inside government to those areas. Think about how to partner with the private sector and together address challenges about the economy. There are different views about the values of public money being invested in enterprise that’s not going to go a way.
‘It is important local authorities make the case as to why you are doing what you are doing. That is properly understood in government. We have been doing a lot of work on this with the Local Government Association.’