£80m up for grabs for transport schemes in Bath and North East Somerset and the wider area
BATH and North East Somerset and the wider area would be in line to receive more than £80 million to spend on major transport schemes over a decade the Government has signalled.
The provisional funding allocation of £81.4 million paves the way for a newly-formed local transport body (LTB), covering the same area as the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership – covering Banes, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset – to draw up a draft list of priority projects by July this year.
It is in preparation for 2015, when each local transport body will be allocated cash based on population.
This is a change from previous arrangements, where local areas bid for a share of a central funding pot, putting forward specific schemes for consideration.
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The West of England allocation covers 10 years as agreed as part of its city deal.
But the money announced by the Government is only an assumed amount for planning purposes for the period 2015-25, with the exact level of funding available under the revamped system yet to be decided.
However, in a clear acknowledgement of the uncertainty surrounding future funding, the Department for Transport is advising local bodies to make contingency provision in their plans for actual budget levels to be one third higher or lower than their indicative figure.
In the case of the West of England, this could mean a significant variation of around £27 million.
Publishing the indicative funding levels, Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “The devolution of major transport schemes will give real power to communities to make locally-accountable decisions about what will work best for them.
“The figures we have published provide the clarity local areas need to plan for the future and armed with these figures, local decision makers can start looking at the kinds of infrastructure projects that will deliver the greatest benefits for local people.
“Many transport schemes deliver benefits far beyond their immediate surrounds and I would encourage local authorities to talk to their neighbours where joint schemes might be appropriate.”
The Government had previously pressed for the formation of ‘consortia’ covering more than one LEP area to deal with larger strategic transport schemes, although it later back-tracked on this.
It signalled concerns that the move away from the centralised bidding process ran the risk of the process getting bogged down by narrow interests and infighting as each area battles it out for scarce resources, instead of targeting money at strategic projects that would realise wider benefits.
Earmarking funding according to resident numbers is also likely to give rise to fears that the area could lose out in cash-terms to more densely-populated parts of the country.
In other city deal areas, Greater Manchester is in line to net £199.3 million, West Yorkshire and York £182.8 million, and Sheffield City Region/ South Yorkshire £113.6 million.