Councils risk losing grants as road plans are rejected: Christian Wolmar and Oliver Tickell report on 'sea change' in counties' attitudes towards transport policy

COUNTY councillors elected in last month's anti-Tory bandwagon are set to reject government funding for road building, putting in jeopardy a number of schemes across Britain.

In Dorset, Liberal Democrat councillors, who now control the council after a century of Conservative rule, are considering scrapping several schemes in order to transfer money to education and social services.

Under the rules, the Government allocates a transport supplementary grant (TSG), which is principally for road schemes, on the basis that it covers half the cost, with the rest coming from council funds. Counties now seem prepared to cut back on road building, even if it means losing these grants.

In Oxfordshire, a scheme to build a pounds 7m bypass around Woodstock has been rejected by the county, amid accusations that the Department of Transport is trying to blackmail the council into building it.

When the Dorset Liberal Democrats were in opposition last February, they put forward an amendment to the budget asking for half a dozen road schemes to be dropped in order to boost the education budget, but this was defeated by the then Tory majority. Now that they are in power, they are suggesting cuts to the road building programme in order to channel more money to education and social services, even though only half the cost of a road scheme becomes available for allocating to other departments.

Trevor Jones, the chairman of the county's policy and resources committee, said: 'Some of the schools in Dorset are dropping to bits. They are a disgrace in a civilised society. You can defer road schemes, but not a child's education.'

But there is resistance from the county's engineers. Mike Chaney, Dorset's press officer, said: 'Our engineers are not happy about it. What do engineers do except to spread concrete over everything? That's what we pay them for.'

In Oxfordshire, which is now evenly balanced between the three major parties, earlier this month Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors combined to vote down the Woodstock scheme. Now the council faces the risk of losing grant for other schemes.

The Department of Transport has written to the council saying 'if Oxfordshire reinstated a modified Woodstock bypass in their programme, the Department would look with greater confidence on their proposals for future TSG schemes'.

In Woodstock, the council wants to build traffic calming measures instead of the bypass and because of capping limits on its budget imposed by the Government, it wants to avoid having to spend the pounds 500,000 a year it would cost to maintain the road and pay off the debt. This implies that a scheme to remove cars from Oxford's congested city centre, while improving public transport, cycling and pedestrian access for which the council hopes to obtain TSG, may be jeopardised.

The Department of Transport has begun to recognise that its emphasis on roads is not always welcomed by local authorities. TSG used to be payable only for road schemes but, from next year, following pressure from councils, it will be possible to use it for other transport projects.

However, only schemes that cost pounds 2m or more will be eligible for grant. Liam Tiller, Oxfordshire's chief planning officer, says: 'This limit means it will be difficult to get money for anything other than road schemes.'

He said there had been a 'sea change' in attitudes among local authorities about transport.

'Everybody used to be keen on road building, but the experience of the M25 has changed that. We were told that the M25 would solve all our problems, yet no sooner is it finished than they are trying to double the number of lanes. Now counties are looking at trying to manage the traffic growth, rather than building more roads.'

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?