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.

For major infrastructure development, the persistently high inflation that councils have faced since the second half of 2022 has meant that many have struggled to deliver ambitious infrastructure proposals, with the costs of construction far exceeding projected costs when such schemes were signed off years prior.

On transport, a recent report from the CCN found that bus usage in county areas was at a historic low, with declining government support for bus subsidies seeing routes cut over the last decade. The research sets out a series of recommendations to address the issue, but also showed that government funding from its National Bus Strategy went to the areas that had seen the least decline in usage. Further CCN research also found that county authorities were increasingly rolling out ‘on demand’ bus services to make up for a lack of bus routes in their areas.

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 ensure that county areas get a fair share of roads maitainence funding to address potholes and defects.

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 existing 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.

If there is to be future rounds of bus service funding, this should be proportionally distributed to the areas that have seen the largest decline in routes and passengers.

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