Transport & Infrastructure

It goes without saying that the right infrastructure and connectivity is paramount for economic growth in county areas. It also plays an important role in helping to tackle climate change and decarbonisation as well as improving social mobility, which is an issue entrenched across county areas.

Whilst the trend is beginning to change, County Councils Network analysis shows that county areas are the poor relation to the cities in terms of roads maintenance funding and wider infrastructure funding, and is imperative that recent moves to make the distribution of this money fairer continue.

In addition, many county areas are receiving an inadequate amount of infrastructure money compared to their housing projections, leading to gaps amounting to billions over the next decade in some places. CCN has long called for a closer alignment of housing and infrastructure functions in two-tier county areas, and for mechanisms such as CIL and S106 to better finance infrastructure to go with development.

On transport, the County All-Party Parliamentary Group report, co-authored by CCN, explored the decline of buses in county areas. It found that not only had funding decreased for bus subsidies at a higher rate than other parts of the country, but passenger journeys have decreased the most.  The government’s National Bus Strategy aims to reverse this, and councils will be tasked with setting out plans for ‘enhanced partnerships’ or franchise arrangements with their local bus providers.

Connectivity, however, is not just about physical infrastructure. CCN research has shown that county areas suffer from lower broadband speeds than urban areas. Better broadband can affect productivity, the number of businesses, and local labour market outcomes such as employment, income and wages.

Transport & Infrastructure Key Asks

Government should reverse the recent £400m reduction in roads maintenance funding, with county areas receiving a fair share.

Move to a more balanced distribution of central infrastructure funding between counties and cities which better aligns with local priorities. Funding should be decentralised as far as possible, with decisions made by local leaders.

Reform the developer contributions system ensuring that, in two tier areas, contributions are distributed fairly to cover the range of physical and social infrastructure required for new development.

A proportionate share of investment from the National Bus Strategy must make its way to county areas to reverse the decline in bus routes and to modernise services.

The government’s ambitions for 85% gigabit-speed broadband coverage in England by 2025 is welcome, but it must set out a clear roadmap to achieve this in partnership with county authorities.

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Timelines: County Council Policies
Announcement Date: 16/04/2020