Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Milton Keynes Council (NT 20)


    —  Milton Keynes is a remarkable success, but this obscures some significant deficits, many shared with other new towns;

    —  Milton Keynes' economic success is uneven, with pockets of physical and social deprivation often exacerbated by heritage of experimental public housing, a shortage of affordable housing and significant need for greater social inclusion;

    —  Milton Keynes' economic success is partial, with a workforce whose skills poorly match the needs of local business. Moreover the town lacks a centre of higher education;

    —  The accessibility of Milton Keynes is flawed, with a poor public transport system and over-reliance on the car, exacerbated by a physical layout which makes bus services uneconomic;

    —  The governance of Milton Keynes is flawed, with significant elements still controlled by a Non Departmental Public Body outside the local democratic process;

    —  The resourcing of Milton Keynes is flawed, with inadequate revenue support from SSA to ensure the range of services and facilities required by the growing community, and with inadequate capital assets to allow the community to redirect resources to meet local needs;

    —  These deficits, notwithstanding the spectacular successes, are the result of the organisational arrangements through which the new town was developed the succession of Development Corporation, Commission for the New Towns and now English Partnerships;

    —  Milton Keynes, now politically mature, seeks a mechanism to relate development decisions to the local political process, to make local governance more transparent;

    —  As Milton Keynes continues to grow and develop, this must be accompanied by a mechanism to ensure that the demands and costs of growth can be met without unacceptable degradation to local services. The local authority should not be forced to spend dowries to meet immediate service imperatives;

    —  Local administrative structures and boundaries must be relevant to economic, social and cultural realities, and must be supported by appropriate regional organisations that can deliver a framework for growth. Current regional boundaries should not be allowed to dilute the needs of the area.


  1.1  Milton Keynes Council welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the sub-Committee. If requested, the Council would be pleased to supplement the points made below and in the appendix with an oral expansion or further response.


  2.1  Milton Keynes is the newest and largest of the new towns. It was conceived in the 60s, and implemented over the subsequent 35 years to the present, when it is now 85 per cent complete. From the outset it was developed through the Milton Keynes Development Corporation which received extensive dedicated resources until 1992. It was succeeded by the Commission for the New Towns in 1992 who, in turn, were succeeded by English Partnerships in 1997. Some community facilities were transferred to the local authority, but others, including the majority of public open space in the designated new town area, have been transferred to independent not-for-profit organisations with the intention of preventing local authority control or interference. Other important elements, such as the main city centre "High Street" were sold into commercial control.

  2.2  Milton Keynes has grown as a community from a population of 60,000 at designation in 1967 to 212,800 in 2001. At the same time it has grown steadily as an economy, with 21,350 jobs at designation to 115,800 jobs in 2001. Far from developing as a dormitory town for economic activity elsewhere, Milton Keynes provides a similar number of jobs and economically active residents. It is an economic centre with a sub-regional catchment extending well into the adjoining Eastern and East Midlands regions. Its economy has strengths in logistics, distribution and retail, but also in other sectors including manufacturing, telecommunications, ITC and business support. The headline figures show significant economic success though within those lie some indicators of disadvantage and deterioration.

  2.3  The continuing growth and development of Milton Keynes has taken it to a measure of independence. In 1997 it became a Unitary Authority responsible for the full range of local authority services. Key public services, particularly Health and Police, have coterminous operational boundaries. All parts of Milton Keynes are now parished, with the emergent tier of 45 parishes developing their own partnerships with Milton Keynes Council. Crucially, however, the Unitary authority has only limited influence over the nature and pace of continuing development. Land allocations, ownership, disposals, funding, phasing and receipts, relating to an estimated 900 acres of undeveloped land in the city, are within English Partnerhips' control. English Partnerships has powers of development authorisation that are independent of the local planning authority, that serve needs and targets that are not of Milton Keynes, and which make no contribution to the locality through planning gain. English Partnerships provides mechanisms for local consultation, takes part in many of the local partnerships that engage with local interests, and actively promotes specific projects that support local aspirations, such as the remodelling of Central Milton Keynes or the development of the urban village at Broughton/Atterbury. They are, however, outside the mechanisms of locally accountable governance.

  2.4  The attached appendix addresses the elements specified in the Sub-Committee's invitation to contributors.


  New towns were a remarkable success story and achieved, through radical mechanisms, some very significant economic outcomes. Milton Keynes represents the climax of the ambitious post-war New Towns programme. The concept may have produced some robust housing numbers and, not least in the case of Milton Keynes, an entirely new community. There are, however, significant deficits. These relate primarily to:

    —  Milton Keynes' constrained role in self-determination;

    —  lack of resources fit for the purpose;

    —  lack of transparency of governance at a time when local democracy is being promoted nationally;

    —  the pervasive impact of poor public transport; and

    —  continuing unsustainable aspects of the new town's urban management.

  Coming of age of Milton Keynes requires the city to take responsibility for its future and the development decisions that will shape it. Quango-led governance is not consistent with encouraging local democracy.

  To tackle the very substantial challenges and costs associated with recent and future growth Milton Keynes, even more than the earlier new towns, must evolve a democratic-led local partnership that can re-cycle the value stream inherent in a growing city.

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