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On the back of that, the noble Lord asked how plans would be funded. Current funding runs until 2011, when the present phase of plans ends. Funding may well depend on plans but we have not yet reached the stage where we can make a decision. Of course, there will be a continuing need for funding for transportation plans, although we have not finalised exactly how that will happen, as I am sure the noble Lord will understand.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am not sure that he will be able to give an answer now but I should be happy for him to write to me. I should like a better understanding of how local transport plans will work in tandem with the new local area agreement framework, which was agreed in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.
To pick up the point of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, it seems to me that if a local authority chooses not to update its local transport plan regularly, that is one thing, but if on the other hand the local strategic partnership develops policies which rely on a transport element, how will its aspirations be reflected in transport planning? I recognise that this is a complex area and I am happy for the Minister to write to me, but I think that the Government need to think carefully about how the two will interact.
Lord Hanningfield: I should like to reinforce that point. I should have raised it because it is important, and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. I am thinking in terms of a very big local area agreement
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Lord Bassam of Brighton: It may be useful if I set out our thoughts at greater length in correspondenceperhaps by a compendium letter, as we have already made a number of commitments to clarify particular issues. It is fair to say that local transport plans are very important core plans for local authorities, either singularly or working in co-operation with others, and we certainly understand the overall impact that local area agreements have on strategic thinking in local authorities. They are significant and, as the noble Lord said, they sometimes involve many millions of pounds of expenditure. It is right that local area agreements reflect local transport planning and that the local authorities involved in constructing LAAs and LTPs work carefully with each other. It is hard to prescribe how that should work but clearly we have some thoughts on it and I should like to review it before I give a definitive answer. However, we understand the point, which has been well made.
The noble Lord said: The local transport plan is a useful exercise for local authorities in planning their future transport requirements, as we have just been discussing. It allows a full appraisal of all concerns to take place within a local transport area. As the Bill is principally enabling and seeks to encourage authorities to take up quality partnership approaches, I am certain
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The amendment would allow a local authority, if it so wished, to produce a bus partnership scheme. Such a document could prove very useful in gaining a consensus on the best way to approach a quality partnership network and agree preliminary information on bus routes, frequencies, fares and other matters. I am certain that the transparency this could bring would well serve the implementation of an agreed scheme. It would enable long-term planning without the need for quality contracts. The role of the Bus Passenger Committee proposed elsewhere in the Bill could be substantiated by its involvement in producing a bus partnership scheme. I beg to move.
I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. I agree with everything he has said about the desirability of the longer-term idea. We all know that we suffer from short-termism. When it comes to investing in new facilities, be they buses or other types of transport or the infrastructure that goes with them, the experience is that you get a much better service and investment if there is a longer-term assurance that the services and the partnership will continue. The same applies on the railways. Ten to 15 years is enough time to get a really good structure going. That is one of the many options for operating buses, and it could be a major benefit in attracting new investment and new services and therefore increasing the volume of passengers.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Clauses 12 to 17 contain provisions for quality partnership schemes for bus services. There is already provision in the Transport Act 2000 and in amendments made by the Bill requiring consultation on these quality partnership schemes, and their coverage already includes routes, frequencies and fares. Provision is therefore made elsewhere for some of what the amendment proposes.
In our view, a specific duty for local planning authorities to have regard to bus partnership schemes would create a precedent for having a similar express duty relating to many other areas of policy interest. In transport there are other schemes that might carry similar weight with local planning authorities; for example, freight quality partnerships and road safety proposals. There will also be similar examples in other sectors. Local planning authorities already have an administrative duty to have regard to all such schemes where they are relevant to their functions.
The quality bus partnership schemes, made under the Transport Act 2000 and by virtue of Clauses 12 to 17 of the Bill, can be made when local transport plans have been prepared or at any other stage in their life cycle. Bus partnership schemes as proposed in this amendment would be restricted to being created merely during the preparation of a local transport plan.
I hope the noble Lord will agree that the approach we propose elsewhere in the Bill would enable much of what is in this amendment to be achieved, and the
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Lord Hanningfield: I am rather disappointed that the Minister was so negative about this amendment. If it created a precedent for other partnerships, it would probably be a good precedent. I totally support the partnership working that local authorities and others should do these days. In future most services will have to be delivered by partnerships in some way. The partnership with bus providers that is proposed here could be a very good thing, and it would complement the rest of the Bill. I have heard what the Minister has said today, but we might come back on this one. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I gave notice of my objection to Clause 9 standing part of the Bill as a way of reflecting further on some issues that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, at Second Reading. This concerns the thorny issue of boundaries. Wherever there are administrative boundaries, cross-boundary issues always emerge. I wish to reflect further on that because local transport plans are drawn up by local authorities and therefore reflect local authority boundaries. Clause 9 continues in that vein by amending the Transport Act 2000 but retains transport planning within discrete local authority boundaries.
However, there are areas where local authority boundaries do not reflect what happens in real life, particularly in regard to transport. For example, in Suffolk, where I live, people in the south-east of the county live in Suffolk but work and shop in Colchester, in Essex; people in the north go over to Diss and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, referred to Yeovil in Somerset, which is right on the Dorset border. The point he made was that Somerset County Council cannot sponsor a bus service in Dorset even though it might be to the economic advantage of Yeovil to encourage people from Dorset to come into what is their nearest town.
I have given notice of my intention to oppose the clause as a way of urging the Government to think about how one might deal with these kinds of cross-border issues. Indeed, there is not even a requirement in the clause for the local authority drawing up a local transport plan to consult the neighbouring authority; it merely states,
Lord Snape: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this point. The question of local government boundaries so far as it concerns public transport
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I cannot claim any expertise in the area mentioned by the noble Baroness but I can claim some experience in the West Midlands, both from a political and a bus industry point of view. I draw the Committees attention to my entry in the Register of Members Interests. I act at the moment for FirstGroup but I spent about 15 years working for the National Express Group and chaired a major bus subsidiary based in Birmingham.
On this vexed question of bus services that cross boundaries, most local authorities are fairly artificial entities; people cross them on a regular basis without thinking twice about it, as do bus services. One of the most famous bus services in Birmingham is the 11C, which meanders around the Birmingham conurbation crossing every trunk road into the city. Its punctuality led to me and other members of the board regularly receiving angry letters from understandably concerned passengers. It crossed many local authority boundariesall of them being highway authorities as they were district councilsand we had to negotiate with, I think, eight local authorities. I am speaking from memory now about trying to make proper bus provision for this particular route. The fact that it had to cross eight local authority boundaries in 28 miles, which was the total mileage of the service, indicates the difficulty.
I hesitate to cause any grief to the noble Baroness or to the Liberal Democrats generally, but I had an exchange with her about this route on the Floor of the House some time ago. I pointed out that one local authority, Birmingham City Councilit was Conservative-controlled but with the Liberal Democrats as junior partnerstook the view that bus lanes penalised motorists and took them out. I asked the noble Baroness at the time whether that was in accordance with Liberal Democrat Party policy. Her reply certainly was, because she saidand I paraphrase herWell, it doesnt really matter what we say here, because people at local level actually decide.
Lord Snape: That rather confirmed our prejudices, if the noble Baroness will forgive me for saying so. These are genuine difficulties. I am not sure that my noble friend the Minister, in replying, can do anything about them during the passage of the Bill, but I am sure that what happens in the wilds of Norfolk and the conurbation of the West Midlands can be repeated in other parts of the country. A coherent approach from district councils anywhere in the United Kingdom appears to be pretty difficult. Will the Minister offer me and the noble Baroness any words of comfort that such an approach will be attempted during the passage of the Bill?
Baroness Crawley: I thank the noble Baroness and my noble friend for their contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, and I share some political experience in the West Midlands, which goes back some way. I appreciate the difficulties in the West Midlands conurbation that he mentioned and the problems of joint working. We take travel-to-work areas seriously. We recognise that there have been significant changes in recent years in the distance which people are prepared, or have, to travel to work, especially around our major urban areas. This means that the boundaries of the existing passenger transport authority areas may not always accurately reflect peoples actual travel patterns. Increasingly, as the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Snape will know, journeys may start or end outside PTA areas. Clause 77 recognises this, and allows the Secretary of State to make an order to expand the existing boundaries of an integrated transport authority where the relevant authorities have given their consent. That opportunity exists.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: Clause 68, which relates to reviews and creating new integrated transport areas, states that the reviews have to be undertaken by the whole of the district. We may be discussing travel-to-work areas, but if we are still talking about whole districts as entities, the problem may not be dealt with.
Baroness Crawley: As part of the consultation process which was conducted between July and October 2007 and entitled, Local Transport Planning: The Next Steps, the department consulted on proposals for a sharper focus in future local transport plans, covering both longer-term strategies and shorter-term implementation. One objective was to facilitate more joint working where appropriate, to have a wide-area, longer-term strategy alongside authority-area based implementation plans. The Government are also facilitating joint working across local authority boundaries through multi-area agreements. These are agreements between two or more top-tier unitary local authorities. The authorities are partners, including districts, in two-tier areas and governments. They are voluntarily entered into by the authorities.
The Government are committed to agreeing sub-regional enabling measures and potentially greater flexibility over funding. Thirteen sub-regions are candidates for the first set of these multi-area
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On the issue of joint working, local authorities have powers to work together in Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, which covers the local agreements, and the multi-area agreements that I have mentioned.
(3) If an authority or authorities propose to designate a Tendered Network Zone they must give notice of the proposed network scheme in at least one newspaper circulating in the area to which it relates.
in cases where the authority or authorities consider that any such provision, or (as the case may be) variation or withdrawal, of services might be detrimental to the provision of services under the scheme.
(10) Where a scheme includes any registration restrictions by virtue of subsection (8), it must also specify the criteria (registration criteria) by reference to which the traffic commissioners are to decide whether or not to accept an application for registration.
The noble Lord said: The amendment may represent one solution to the problems raised by the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Snape about the boundaries. Notwithstanding what my noble friend has said, there always will be boundary problems, and it is a question of how one deals with them.
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