Counting the cost: financial scrutiny of the Department for Transport 2011-12 - Transport Committee Contents

1 Introduction

1.  Government spending—how much money is spent on which activities and projects and how decisions are taken to determine priorities—is an issue at the heart of British politics. It is especially significant during a time of austerity, when the focus is on where to make cuts and the impact these might have on service provision, public welfare and employment. The Government's Spending Review in autumn 2010 was unprecedented in modern times in envisaging at least five years of austerity, in order to reduce the budget deficit. The impact of the Spending Review on transport has underpinned several of our inquiries and in January 2011 we published a strategy for financial scrutiny of the Department for Transport (DfT).[1] This report is the first in what we intend will be a series of financial scrutiny reports arising from that strategy. We comment on what has happened to the DfT's budget since the Spending Review, the department's business plan and its annual report.

2.  We are also taking this opportunity to follow up some of the recommendations we made in our report Transport and the Economy which was published in March 2011.[2] This report's recommendations on the appraisal of transport projects and the wider strategic context are particularly relevant in the light of the host of new road and rail projects approved by the DfT as part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's autumn economic statement in November.

3.  Throughout the last year we have corresponded with the DfT on its financial announcements. We also took oral evidence from Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, and Lin Homer, then Permanent Secretary, on the work of the DfT on 19 October and from the Secretary of State and Steve Gooding, a senior official, on the autumn economic statement on 14 December. We publish all of this material with this report. We acknowledge the assistance we received from the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit in analysing financial information for us and drawing our attention to the salient issues.

1   Financial scrutiny of the Department for Transport, Second Report, Session 2010-12, HC 683 (hereafter Financial scrutiny). Back

2   Transport and the economy, Third Report, Session 2010-12, HC 473 (hereafter Transport and the economy). Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 23 February 2012