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

5 Conclusion

31.  In our report on Transport and the economy we called for the DfT to publish a strategy to explain what the Government aims to achieve by spending money on transport and how its policies support these aims.[47] The department dismissed our recommendation, pointing us to the lists of actions in the business plan.[48] The business plan is a useful and informative document but it does little more than list transport policies and target dates for implementation. It sits in a strategic vacuum and can easily be overtaken by events. For example, the sudden rash of extra investment in transport projects announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not anticipated in the business plan.

32.  New in post, Ms Greening told us that an overall transport strategy would emerge from work on the sustainable framework for aviation, rail reform and the review of the Highways Agency: "You will see the overall strategy emerge over the period that those processes take to come to fruition".[49] She later said:[50]

I recognise that the development of [a] holistic vision for transport that draws all the various threads together into one space may have some value and will be considering the benefits of such an approach.

Our scrutiny of the DfT's annual report and the financial information it publishes reinforces our view that an overall strategy for transport is needed. The paucity of information about performance in the annual report is because there is no agreed way of measuring the department's performance, except to tick off completed actions in the business plan. It might be thought that the various indicators chosen by the department are a way of measuring performance, but the DfT does no more than publish the bare data. It has not explained why the indicators matter or in which direction the Government would like them to go. Answering these questions would go a long way to providing the DfT with a strategy. We were pleased to see that the new Secretary of State saw the force in our argument and is considering the benefits of drawing up an overall strategy. We recommend that the DfT publish an overall strategy for transport, preferably in or alongside the next departmental annual report.

47   Transport and the Economy, paragraphs 42-43. Back

48   Transport Committee, Transport and the economy: Government response to the Committee's Third Report of Session 2010-12, Fourth Special Report of 2010-12, HC 962, pp4-5. Back

49   Q16. Back

50   Ev 28. Back

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Prepared 23 February 2012