A senior Department for Transport (DFT) official has played down the possibility of city regions diverting government money intended for road repairs to pay for their plans to improve bus services.
This follows last week’s announcement of funding for Local Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIP), which saw the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority receive no new money and other areas of the city receiving less than they said they needed.
South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said his region had been ‘trapped’ while Tracey Brabin, Mayor of neighboring West Yorkshire, said the £70m given to his combined authority for his BSIP showed that ‘the government’s ambition does not yet match ours’.
She said: ‘The level of funding planned for buses means that we will have to make tough decisions and it will take us longer to deliver the benefits of a fully inclusive bus service offered by our plan.’
Alongside the bus funding announcement, the DfT also confirmed City Region Sustainable Funding Settlement (CRSTS) allocations for seven city authorities combined, which include capital funding for motorway maintenance in the framework of the pothole fund and the needs and incentives of the highway maintenance block.
Speaking at the Road Surface Treatment Association conference last week, Matt Eglinton (pictured), the DfT’s local motorway maintenance and resilience manager, described motorway maintenance and investment in the local road network as “the absolute foundation for ensuring that local transport plans can be carried out effectively”.
Mr. Eglinton also pointed out that CRSTS funding was not earmarked. In response to a question from Transport network Asked whether city regions could divert motorway maintenance money to compensate for declining funding for buses, he replied: “I don’t see that as a problem as the evidence suggests local authorities are spending the money that has been allocated.”
Mr Eglinton said: “When we secured funding for three years, we rolled over existing allocations. So, although in theory the funding was part of a larger settlement, local authorities already have a level expenditure in terms of what has been allocated to the local network.
“We have seen consistently that it is all about capital maintenance funding, local authorities always spend the amounts allocated to them and in many cases there are local authorities spending beyond that. .”
The deferral of 2021-22 highway funding allocations for another three years represents a freeze against the backdrop of what RSTA Chairman Keith Brett of Kiely Bros described as hyperinflation in the sector, particularly with regard to petroleum-based products that are vital for road maintenance.
He told conference delegates, “We all know how difficult it is [highway maintenance] the budgets are going to be this year.
He said: “The effect of this and the removal of the red diesel duty for specialist motorway factories is hitting our industry hard, just at the start of our main season after two very difficult years.”