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"Whitehall bureaucracy stifles transport improvements"

Britain’s transport crisis will not improve unless the Government loosens its strangle-hold on the finances available to cities and towns.

Vital redevelopment schemes, like the proposed Birmingham Gateway, are being put on hold because city councils are denied the ability to raise the funding for essential transport infrastructure.

These are two of the findings of an inquiry by the All Party Urban Development Group (APUDG) into infrastructure provision in the UK. The inquiry report, published today, concludes that our excessively centralised system of finance is stifling new investment in Britain’s transport infrastructure.

The report, Loosening the Leash, says that Britain’s infrastructure crisis is partly due to Whitehall micro-management, excessive bureaucracy, too many funding streams, and financial rules that constrain local government’s ability to help fund their own infrastructure.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the All Party Urban Development Group, said:
"Britain’s cities are being held back by our centralised funding system. Government needs to empower city leaders to take more of their own decisions. Today’s report recommends some new local financial powers, for cities to fund more of their own transport systems. Our message is clear: greater devolution is essential for the future success of our cities."

David Wechsler, Chief Executive, Croydon Council, at the Group’s oral evidence session in Parliament on 20 November 2006 said:
"Decision-taking is highly centralised, one of the consequences of which is that in looking to extend the [Croydon Tram] system .... we do not have any means ourselves of generating the next phases of development. The consequence is that we are constantly bidding for resources in the national context, a context in which inevitably quite small sub-regional schemes, which are perhaps only of interest to us locally, tend to be squeezed out, understandably, by larger national considerations."
(For the full transcript go to

Loosening the Leash: How local government can deliver infrastructure with private sector money is the APUDG’s first formal report. It follows a Parliamentary inquiry session held on 20th November 2006, which took evidence from city leaders and chief executives, members of the development community, and key think-tanks. It also draws on 20 written submissions to the APUDG, as well as stakeholder interviews and desk-based research. It is available for free download at the APUDG website:

26 February 2007

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