Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report

Supporting programmes to address the environment and sustainable development

24. Although the Government did little to draw attention to its decisions on funding of environmental programmes in the Comprehensive Spending Review report, it subsequently stressed that the Review resulted in an increase in funding over the three year period of £1.8 billion for roads, rail and local public transport, £174 million for energy efficiency and £80 million for other environmental programmes.[32] The Chief Secretary pointed to the same areas, quoting a figure of £1.1 billion for an integrated transport strategy and noting that the increased funding for environmental programmes (that is, for energy efficiency, other environmental programmes and funding for the British Waterways Board) amounted to a real terms increase of 9 per cent.[33]

25. The Non-Government Organisations which submitted evidence to this inquiry welcomed the increases given, for example, to transport and regeneration, energy efficiency, the National Parks, the Forestry Commission, the Environment Agency, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and MAFF agri-environment schemes.[34] Some pointed to continuing shortfalls for programmes they considered important — for example for Protected Area funding for the National Parks[35] and for a coordinated strategy to attack fuel poverty.[36]

26. We were surprised that the Chief Secretary chose to highlight a different figure in relation to expenditure on transport than the one that had been quoted by the Government at the time. On closer inspection it was clear that both £1.8 billion and £1.1 billion were selected figures from the transport budget, while there was no increase overall for the budget as a whole for the three year period compared to 1998-99. In a memorandum to us the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions explained that the £1.1 billion figure excludes £700 million increases in expenditure on the maintenance of trunk roads, motorways and local authority roads. It includes increases for the local transport capital settlement (£334 million), bus fuel duty rebate in England (£285 million), the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (£247 million), new initiatives on rail passenger partnership and infrastructure (£105 million), Trans-European Network projects (£66 million) and smaller increases for a number of other initiatives (£74 million including £18 million for promoting green transport plans and £36 million for an increase in rail freight grants).[37] These increases should be seen against a background of reductions in spending on transport programmes in London (£1 billion) made possible by London Underground's future Public Private Partnership and the completion of the Jubilee Line extension, and the reduction in support for the railways (£832 million) under existing contracts between the franchise director and the train operating companies.[38] Taking these reductions into account the balance of spending between roads and rail does not appear to have been addressed.

27. On balance, we would support the conclusion of the Council for the Protection of Rural England[39], and say that whilst the increases in funding for environmental protection programmes should be welcomed, they are marginal by comparison to what could be achieved through integration of environmental considerations into the Government's more mainstream programmes for health, education, competitiveness etc. How far the environmental implications of other programmes was taken into account in new spending proposals is addressed in the following section and in the later section on departments' Public Service Agreements.

32   Op. Cit. and DETR Press Releases 606 20 July 1998 and 614 22July 1998 Back

33   Q2 Back

34   Ev: Appendices 4, 6 to 9 Back

35   Ev p59 Back

36   Ev p53 Back

37   Ev pp 60 & 61  Back

38   DETR. News Release 606 20 July 1998  Back

39   Ev p 39 Back

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