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.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project