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MPs issue warning on transport bodies

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An influential group of MPs has raised concerns about the accountability arrangements for 39 new local transport bodies which are due to be established.

The Commons public accounts committee has called for the National Audit Office to be given full access to the new bodies arguing that audit of the councils which are accountable will not be sufficient.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge (Lab) said the committee was also concerned that the “severe financial pressure” suffered by the transport bodies would deter them from making “sufficiently strategic and joined-up decisions”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said the committee’s recommendations would be carefully considered.

“We are determined to ensure that funding for local transport strikes the right balance between ensuring value for money for taxpayers while still allowing decisions to be made on a local level.”

The committee also recommended the NAO be given the power to audit to other non-statutory local bodies such as local enterprise partnerships.

However, speaking at a conference last week, communities secretary Eric Pickles tackled the question of accountability of local enterprise partnerships stating there were “some colleagues who have really misunderstood what a LEP is about. A LEP is essentially a clothes horse, it is there for local authorities to share finance and to share sovereignty. It is not there as a legal entity in itself”.

There was no need to address the governance of LEPs he added because “the powers are local authority powers… I don’t want LEPs to have any powers. I want them to be consulted, I want them to have influence, I want them to be the point at which business and local authorities meet, and the best LEPs have really understood that”.

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