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Three counties bid for £2.8bn transport deal

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Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire CCs have submitted a bid to the government to win £2.8bn of transport infrastructure investment.

The bid from the so called ‘tri-county’, stops short of seeking a full devolution deal.

Instead of forming a combined authority, leaders in the three authorities propose establishing a ‘transport forum’ to manage the introduction of the proposals.

These include a smart-ticketing system and the integration of car parking and enforcement schemes.

The thee authorities also want to bring together the ‘sub-region’s’ emergency services.

In addition, leaders want the government to agree investment in five major roads across the region in its November spending review.

Such an infrastructure improvement would encourage economic growth in the region, they argue.

The submission of the £2.8bn bid for investment follows the unveiling of a five-year growth deal in May by the same three authorities.

In return for the investment, the three authorities have pledged to create 135,000 new jobs and add £9bn to the economy each year by 2020.

A proposal to take control of health and social care budgets, floated by Northamptonshire CC’s leader Jim Harker (Con) in May, does not feature in the bid, which has branded the region “England’s economic heartland”.

Cllr Harker told LGC: “Our transport proposition will completely redefine the way that people think about travelling in non-metropolitan Britain and indeed how public sector and private sector collaborate on infrastructure projects.”

The proposed transport forum would be made up of representatives from the three councils and their respective local enterprise partnerships.

Buckinghamshire CC’s leader Martin Tett (Con)

Martin Tett

Buckinghamshire CC’s leader Martin Tett (Con) told LGC the model was based on the forerunner to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

“We have gone very tactically and strategically for the transport piece which all of the experience from Manchester tells us is the fundamental building block [to further devolution],” said Cllr Tett.

LGC previously reported how Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire were struggling to win the support of their districts to form a combined authority.

Cllr Tett said a body with representatives from 19 local authorities and three local enterprise partnerships would be “completely unmanageable”, adding that leaders could not see how a combined authority would deliver better outcomes for residents.

He said the proposed structure had already gained approval from the Department for Transport, while talks with civil servants at the Treasury, the Department for Communities & Local Government, and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills have also taken place.

“Almost everybody we have spoken to in government has said ‘This sounds great’,” said Cllr Tett.

Cllr Tett said the councils already had the ability to set up the transport forum using their general powers of competence but wanted to gain commitments from central government on infrastructure spending.

“That would make it really effective but we certainly plan to do it anyway,” said Cllr Tett, and added the transport forum could be up and running either later this year or the beginning of 2016.

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