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


Conclusions and recommendations


Department for Transport's expenditure

1.  We commend the Department for Transport for simplifying the structure of its Main Estimate and publishing detailed information about spending for the 2005-15 period, which enables us to see more clearly where the department spends money and trends over time. (Paragraph 4)

2.  In our view, the DfT does not provide Parliament and the public with adequate information about in-year changes in its budget. Cuts have been announced without an explanation of where they would fall and new spending commitments have been made without proper explanation of how they have been funded. We recommend that when the DfT makes an announcement to Parliament about a change to its budget it should explain the effects of the change on specific budget lines and, where a new spending commitment is involved, an explanation of how the money has been found. If the details have not been finalised at the time of the headline announcement the department should indicate when it will be in a position to provide those details and make a written statement at a later date. (Paragraph 9)

3.  We consider that the DfT could do more to ensure that its expenditure plans involve a fair allocation of resources across the nation. We recommend that the DfT's next annual report and accounts includes a more comprehensive analysis of regional spend, including a fuller explanation of how its figures (which are drawn from National Statistics) are arrived at. In addition, we recommend that major new spending announcements, such as the Spending Review or recent autumn statement, should be accompanied by a comprehensive analysis of their regional impact. (Paragraph 14)

4.  We recommend that the DfT provide us with details of how much it has contributed to the Regional Growth Fund and how that money has been, or is planned to be, used on transport schemes. (Paragraph 18)

5.  We recommend that the DfT explain how the Growing Places Fund is disbursed and what arrangements are in place to ensure that transport projects benefit in proportion to the DfT's contribution to the Fund. (Paragraph 19)

Project appraisal

6.  We welcome the additional investment in road and rail infrastructure projects announced in the Chancellor's autumn statement. These have been prioritised because they can proceed quickly and thus help boost economic activity. Nevertheless, we have some concerns about how these schemes have been appraised to ensure they offer sufficient value for money. A project's readiness to proceed does not necessarily demonstrate that it is the best way of using public money to promote growth. (Paragraph 25)

7.  We recommend that the Government regard the rail schemes announced in the autumn statement as additional to those which the Government will include in its high level output specification (HLOS) for the 2014-19 period. (Paragraph 26)

Performance reporting

8.  The DfT's 2010-11 annual report gives a very thin account of the department's performance during the year. In particular, simply listing the department's key indicators of performance does nothing to help people judge whether the DfT's policies are effective. The problem starts with the department's failure to explain what its indicators are for. We recommend that the department rectify this omission in its 2011-12 annual report. In addition, the next annual report should include data for each of the indicators, a brief assessment of trends in the data, and the Government's view of the preferred direction of travel for each indicator. (Paragraph 29)

9.  We value the annual report on transport security, which is the only consolidated source of information on this important topic. We would be strongly opposed to any diminution in the quantity and quality of information published by the DfT on transport security as a result of its aim to rationalise reporting requirements by merging the transport security annual report with the departmental annual report. (Paragraph 30)

Conclusion

10.  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. We recommend that the DfT publish an overall strategy for transport, preferably in or alongside the next departmental annual report. (Paragraph 32)



 
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Prepared 23 February 2012