LSTF schemes ‘must be monitored’ to ensure legacy
The Government has unveiled the final council schemes to receive funding through its Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) but insiders suggest work is far from completed and a lack of monitoring could undermine the economic growth objective.
The third allocation saw 12 major local authority projects receive £225m, while the Department for Transport (DfT) found an extra £40m to fund 15 additional smaller schemes – bringing the total Whitehall spend on the LSTF to £600m.
Once local authority match funding is added to the central funding the total value of the schemes – aimed at reducing carbon emissions and creating local economic growth – surpasses £1bn. Local transport minister, Norman Baker, and his Liberal Democrat counterpart, Julian Huppert MP, co-chair of the party’s transport committee, celebrated a political victory having resisted Treasury opposition back to get the policy signed off.
‘For two decades Liberal Democrats have called for proper support for green transport,’ Mr Huppert said. ‘Our support for active transport, such as walking and cycling, has been unrelenting.’
Mr Baker added: ‘The schemes we are funding … show that cutting carbon and boosting economic growth go hand-in-hand. Investing in these schemes shows that we are serious about funding infrastructure where there is a clear business case for doing so.’
Sustrans’ policy director, Jason Torrance, welcomed the funding announcements but warned that more work was needed to ensure LSTF achieves its intended legacy.
It is widely expected the next spending review will be in Autumn 2013. But Mr Torrance questions the evidence the DfT would have of the £600m of government spending through the LSTF.
‘If there had been a monitoring regime in place some time ago at least some of the tranche one projects could have yielded indicative results,’ he told Surveyor.
‘It is really welcome that the DfT is seeking to cut carbon and create growth through the LSTF but ministers will need to make the case that the money was well spent if it is to continue to the next parliament.’
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘We have been arguing all along there should be proper monitoring from the start. The problem has been some people within the DFT wanted to monitor it like it was one big project, whereas we would have to monitor the local effects on the environment and the economy.
‘There has been a debate inside the DfT and between authorities on this. To be fair to the department even if they had put in a monitoring scheme for the first tranche they would still only have maybe a year’s worth of evidence, by the time of the next spending review.
‘If the LSTF tap is turned off after the next spending review, we could lose a lot of valuable projects that would actually do more to tackle traffic congestion and help the economy, than large scale schemes on the trunk roads network. Authorities could chase after big projects particularly road projects that could do less to help local traffic problems and in some cases even make things worse.’
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