The Treasury launched its second regional funding advice exercise last week, allocating£22bn of funding between England’s eight regions and inviting suggestions for investment priorities.
However, according to one of the annexes to the consultation document, around£1.3bn per year of transport “block funds” usually allocated directly to individual councils will now be distributed subject to advice at the regional level.
The money usually goes towards capital highways maintenance and to support smaller projects to enhance traffic management, public transport and road safety. But, the document said: “It is important that at a strategic level funds are prioritised and allocated in ways which are consistent with regional strategies as well as national objectives”.
“Regions will be provided with information on the current assumptions on block grant, and may advise on the appropriate distribution of integrated transport and maintenance blocks to local authorities,” it continued.
The proposals caused concern at the Local Government Association.
“We wouldn’t want to see anything in this process undermine or erode councils’ ability to use block funding as they see fit,” said Paul Raynes, the LGA’s programme director for regeneration and transport.
“This would move away from being advice from the region to the government and would become advice from the region to councils.”
Councils have until February to decide on investment priorities, along with their counterparts in RDAs, leaders’ forums and regional assemblies. The advice must also reflect the priorities emerging from multi-area agreements, the first seven of which were approved last month.
However, some regions have expressed concern the February deadline is too tight to produce properly costed plans with full evidence bases.
“The lead-in time for the development of schemes is quite tight,” one local government source in the north-east warned.