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Watchdog demands transport spending

THE GOVERNMENT'S new transport watchdog began its life yesterday by cocking a snook at the Chancellor of the Exchequer and demanding a ``dramatic'' increase in spending to rid Britain of traffic congestion.

In an assault on Gordon Brown's policy of financial stringency, the commission urged the Government to be more flexible about spending on public projects and called for a radical programme to deliver promises in the recent White Paper.

David Begg, chair of the commission, said that while the body had been appointed by the Government it would be independent. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has special responsibility for transport, had told him: ``Don't be frightened to argue with me.'' In reality the commission should provide ammunition for Mr Prescott in his battle to extract more funds from the Treasury.