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MPs warn over risks of 'local transport' cash

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 05, 2013

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The Government's plan to devolve power to regions on major transport schemes has been questioned by a powerful committee of MPs.

In 2015, ministers could hand down almost £55 million to the Westcountry to spend on much-needed road and rail schemes.

But the Public Accounts Committee is "not convinced" that the Government has thought through "the risks", warning that neighbouring so-called local transport bodies will not co-operate.

The Devon and Somerset board consists of delegates from Devon and Somerset county councils, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council, as well as the Local Enterprise Partnership for the two counties. A body for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was agreed last week.

Margaret Hodge, committee chairman said: "The risk is that local transport bodies, under severe financial pressure, will not take sufficiently strategic and joined-up decisions, threatening national or regional transport funding objectives."

Devon and Somerset are in line for £40.6 million from 2015/16 to 2018/19, and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly £13.3 million.

This is a change from previous arrangements, where local areas bid for a share of a Whitehall funding pot.

The report also warned closer checks should be kept on how local authorities are spending the money they get to invest in roads, light rail and buses amid fears cash-strapped councils are diverting funds to other projects.

Restrictions should also be put in place to make local authorities spend cash they earn from car parking charges on transport schemes in the area.

The Department for Transport hands over £2.2 billion to fund local schemes but £1.2bn of that is not ring-fenced and could be spent on any capital project, the PAC found.

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