Friday, 21 January 2011

Local Government Group - Economy and Transport Board Report

Wot no Bus!
 One of my roles is as the Independent Group representative on the Local Government Group's Economy and Transport Programme Board. The Green Party with our 130 or so Councillors is linked with the Independents on what was the Local Government Association. Yesterday's Programme Board had an interesting agenda which was, as you can imagine, dominated by the impact of the Coalition Government's cuts agenda.

The first major item was on Investment and Growth and the demise of the  Regional Development Agencies.  The area I highlighted was the increase in the interest costs of prudential borrowing for Councils. Just as Government is saying to the banks that they should make it easier to lend money (and are largely being ignored) Government itself is raising the costs of public sector borrowing making it more expensive to get economic regeneration projects off the ground.

The next area we looked at was the localisation of Council Tax. One possible impact is that adjoining boroughs could have differing policies on Council Tax Benefit. This is clearly bonkers and inequitable and not in the least fair. The reality however may be that there is so little financial flexibility anyway that varying policies may become more difficult but peraps not in Dorset!

Responsibility for Consessionary Fares is being transferred to Councils but surprise, surprise the funding allowed from central government may not actually cover the costs. I did wryly point out that the cuts in funding  to the PTEs will mean less subsidy for rural and off peak services. These are the very services that many pensioners use and as such the opportunity for them to take advantage of free public transport might be more limited anyway. Less public transport , less concessionary fares. So perhaps this is a well thought out Government policy!

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