Local transport ‘set to take brunt of Spending Review cuts’

20 Aug 15

Local transport infrastructure is in line to take a large proportion of government cuts in the forthcoming Spending Review because funding for national road and rail networks is essentially ringfenced, campaigners have warned.

Groups including the government-backed Transport for Greater Manchester and the Campaign for Better Transport have warned that what they describe as “everyday transport” could be hit by up to 40% budget cuts.

This is because funding for local roads as well as bus services, cycling and walking are set on an annual basis through funding to local government, whereas budgets for Network Rail and Highways England are agreed in five-year cycles, making them more difficult to cut.

In a letter to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the groups, which also include Sustrans and Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the spending round is expected to worsen the estimated £8.6bn local road maintenance backlog. It is also likely that the Spending Review, set for November 25, will lead to further cuts in support for bus services as well as campaigns to promote cycling and walking.

In order to minimise the impact of the proposed spending reductions, the groups called for existing cross-government spending to be merged to allow the agreement of longer-term capital and revenue funding programmes.

Jon Lamonte, chief executive of Transport for Greater Manchester, which has been formed as part of the city’s devolution deal with the Treasury, said city regions need long-term sustained investment in local transport.

“Cuts in these budgets will undermine the economic health of the major cities and our programmes for cutting unemployment and regenerating our economies,” said Lamonte, who is also chair of the Passenger Transport Executive Group of urban authorities.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph added that the groups’ analysis indicates the Spending Review risks hitting the kind of local transport schemes that communities rely on.

“We hope the transport secretary will ensure that the Review has a better balance between the major capital programmes and the funding for this everyday transport,” he added.

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