The Institute is the professional body for the full range of people who are engaged in logistics and transport. This includes freight and passenger transport operators, government and local government employees, consultants and academics. Some of these would be directly affected by proposals in the Consultation document whilst many others would be subject to varying degrees of impact on their working lives. The views expressed in this paper reflect those received from members of our Policy Group who have contributed.
The Institute responded in December 2003 to consultation on "Proposals for a New Approach to Transport in Scotland". A copy of our response is attached and it is pleasing to note that the current proposals for RTPs reflect much of what we advocated then. The proposals are similar to the option for Joint Boards which we supported at that time with a minority of members (we suggested a third) drawn from bodies other than local authorities to reduce the possibility of decisions being reached - or frustrated by - the perceived narrow interests of individual local authorities. We pointed out then that lack of direct funding and the need to satisfy a number of local authorities in each case has made it difficult for effective decision making and implementation with the existing voluntary partnerships. This aspect is addressed later.
A disappointing omission from the proposals is the relationship regional partnerships will have with the new national transport agency. We pointed out earlier the potential for Joint Boards to have two roles which would help to ensure cost effective arrangements and the best use of expertise. One would be for local authority based roads and transport activities which are best dealt with at regional level; the other would be to act as the delivery arm of Transport Scotland. The latter role would be similar to the historic role of county councils for trunk roads with the joint board having a watching brief and the main decisions on project implementation and annual funding taken by the national body.
The arrangement we propose would involve local democracy in an advocacy role with regard to developments controlled by the national body and would assist in local public accountability. The same specialist officers would be engaged in regional delivery of national transport developments and on the delivery of local authority responsibilities best undertaken at a regional level e.g. trunk roads and non-trunk strategic roads.
We pointed out that careful consideration would be necessary with regard to funding and decision making and clear lines of responsibility and accountability would need to be established. Section D in the Appendix of our earlier observations summarises possible arrangements and potential agency and direct roles for RTPs. Subject to these aspects being addressed the formulation of RTPs and the national transport agency offers a rare opportunity for all of Scotland's transport needs to be addressed in a unified and consistent manner which would clearly have benefits regarding cost effectiveness. The national body should create in-house expertise on transport matters for the Executive and the RTPs should do the same on behalf of local authorities. The arrangements should ensure best use of all such expertise facilitating common professional standards and facilitating inter-availability. It should be easy to contribute a transport perspective to other policy initiatives.
A demonstrable unified Scottish approach would assist in public understanding and in obtaining support for the changed organisational arrangements. There is a need to promote a reasoned debate in the media and by direct communication on transport issues. The new approach should ensure that this debate takes place on fundamental principles and longer term vision as well as on the problems of transport delivery and the cost of maintaining or changing infrastructure which too often dominate strategic thinking.
Making best use of available resources will be fundamental in ensuring efficiency in public investment. Each RTP should be large enough to have necessary expertise on all main stream activities but in addition the organisational structure and funding arrangements should facilitate easy movement of specialist expertise between RTPs and to and from the national transport agency and local authorities. This would assist RTPs in long term planning and delivery which should be a main responsibility for which adequate powers are required in addition to formulating short term views and advocacy. A fundamental aim should be to ensure effectiveness and accountability with regard to aspirations, principles and practices. More specific comments on the consultation paper follow.
Recognition (para 3) that 'An effective working relationship between the agency and the regional transport partnerships will be crucial to the success of both' is welcomed. The details of this relationship must be addressed urgently to ensure proper decision making relative to RTPs and the best arrangements overall as discussed earlier. A clear identification of their respective powers is essential, relating them to those of other bodies in the "transport field". A proper explanation is also required where powers overlap, explaining the reasons why.
The contents of para 4 are supported but should be taken further to ensure easy inter-action with arrangements for structure plans, development plans, city regions and specific local authority development initiatives as well as with other relevant agencies. Close liaison with constituent councils will clearly be necessary (para 5). As for the national transport agency a clear identification of respective rights, duties and responsibilities will be essential with a minimum of overlap. The potential implications of proportional representation should also be addressed.
More clarification is required (para 6) at an early date of the mechanisms which will apply relating to the involvement of Ministers and/or the national transport agency in producing regional transport strategies and steering funding priorities of RTPs and councils. Resolution of conflicts between aspirations of RTPs and individual councils needs to be addressed. The prospect of direct national transport agency funding should be related to the potential for RTPs to have an agency role for national projects as discussed earlier. The extent to which RTPs might have a formal advocacy role distinct from their constituent councils should also be considered. Statutory participation of RTPs in community planning (para7) is welcomed. Attention should be given to minimising boundary overlaps as referred to for para 4. The consultation process (para8) is supported but decision making where concensus is not achieved should be transparent.
The timescale in achieving statutory RTPs is understandable but the various delays could lead to a hiatus. The proposals (para 12) to encourage voluntary interim action is welcomed.
SECTION A - BOUNDARIES
RTP boundaries should reflect major travel movements and the affinity of interest of the local population and business and commercial activity. In addition they should also ensure that each STP has sufficient resources and expertise to properly undertake the necessary strategic planning and implementation.
The basic principles (para 13) are supported but it should be recognised that some areas are likely to have a significant interest in the activities of more than one RTP. This might deserve consideration of observer or consultative status for some local authorities in RTPs other than the one in which they directly participate. The arrangements decided upon should cater for cross boundary travel patterns and transport issues with a consistency of approach throughout Scotland, perhaps utilising the national transport agency.
The boundaries should facilitate easy inter-action with areas used for related public and private sector activities. A balance is required between the most appropriate boundaries for transport activity and political decision making with recognition that there are functional boundaries as well as geographical ones. It should be demonstrable that the decisions reached are based on these principles. With regard to the questions posed:
1. Proposed Partnership Boundaries.
The five proposed RTPs are supported as they each build on a city region approach and relate to spatial planning. Detailed comments which relate to para 18 are:
i) The administrative point relating to Arran and the Cumbraes is acknowledged but transport movement and public affinity for both is almost wholly with the remainder of North Ayrshire. This can only sensibly be provided for by including all of North Ayrshire in the West and South-West RTP. This would simplify arrangements with perhaps observer status provided in respect of the Highlands and Islands RTP as suggested earlier. The proposals regarding Argyll and Bute are supported.
ii) The position regarding Fife is finely balanced but we do not object to the proposal that Fife should be wholly within the South-East RTP.
iii) There is little in transport terms to justify inclusion of Dumfries and Galloway with the remainder of the West and South-West. There are however considerable benefits in terms of resources and expertise by incorporation within the much larger body as was the case with inclusion of Argyll and Bute in the former Strathclyde Region. Any fears of remoteness in decision making can be overcome by local consultative processes and the proposals for incorporation are supported.
iv) With regard to Central and Tay we support separation from North-East but suggest the position regarding Stirling is re-visited. The vast bulk of the population of Stirling Council is in Stirling and the surrounding area. These people and businesses travel to the Central Belt much more than to Perth and beyond and the transport case for inclusion in the West and South-West or South-East RTPs is strong with observer status in the other. This is consistent with the logic put forward for inclusion of all of Fife in the South-East RTP although potential weakening of the resource base for the Central and Tay RTP is recognised.
2. Local Effects
We consider the proposals would benefit all parts of Scotland subject to full consideration of the aspects we have highlighted.
SECTION B - CONSTITUTION
The proposals in para 20 are all supported; in particular having one representative from each council with weighting to reflect population size should result in better quality representation and facilitate easier debate. Efforts should be made to ensure that participants see themselves primarily as RTP members rather than as representatives of the councils or bodies which nominate them. Direct RTP remuneration of all members might assist this and signal participation in their own right. With regard to the specific questions:
3. The role of external members
It is appropriate for stakeholder organisations to be invited to nominate external members but such members should not participate as representatives of the organisation. The background and responsibilities of such members must be made known to all RTP members and conflicts of interest should always be made clear. This is particularly important for nominees from trade organisations or transport operators. Stakeholder nominees should be appointed for their functional knowledge and expertise with a presumption against advocacy relating to their organisation.
It is desirable for all external members to have a relevant expertise with some, perhaps a majority having transport expertise. They should all be viewed as providing added value with a pro-active input to deliberations and decision making. Those from interests outside the transport world should again be nominees rather than representatives, with a genuine interest in promoting transport development.
4. Appointment of external members.
All appointments should be by the RTP in accordance with guidance issued by Scottish Ministers. A consistency of approach is desirable but the range of potential appointees may not permit individual RTPs to have all desirable expertise amongst it external members. Potential for making external member expertise available in one RTP available to other RTPs, perhaps on an ad-hoc basis might deserve consideration. For all appointments of external members there should be transparency with the perceived benefits of appointment clearly identified. Potential conflicts of interests should be identified at the appointment stage together with the mechanisms to manage them.
5. Involvement of people and stakeholders in RTPs
Meetings of RTPs should be advertised in advance with the public and media invited to attend. The RTPs should have similar levels of surveillance with the Ombudsman and Audit Commission as for local authorities. Where particular expertise is not available amongst external members or where considerable attention is required on a particular facet of transport which cannot be provided sensibly at officer level there could be merit in co-opting key stakeholders to work at management team level. Detailed consideration of officer structures and potential use of consultants is required before the extent of such stakeholder involvement can be determined. There could be potential for shared co-option for more than a single RTP as well with the national transport agency. It is likely that stakeholder fora would be of benefit across a wide range of interests. A consistency of approach in accordance with ministerial guidance would be desirable, including co-option where appropriate. Stakeholder fora could extend to public meetings and meetings with representative groups as well as with local authorities. Each RTP should decide in accordance with ministerial guidance. When established each forum should be formally consulted on all significant proposals and developments. RTPs should be active participants in Community Planning with a designated consultative role in association with all relevant bodies. The Executive expectations should be clearly set out with guidance on consultation, timescales and information provision.
6. Organisations represented on RTPs
Representation should be from a wide spectrum including both the public and private sectors but with the emphasis on specific personal expertise rather than organisational advocacy. Nominees from freight and passenger transport organisations are desirable together with business and community groups and those representing special interests. The most appropriate bodies will vary according to the nature of each Region and its transport facilities.
>Nominees from bodies receiving direct benefit from RTPs such as operators in receipt of subsidy should be non-voting. A guiding principle could be that nominees from bodies providing transport services should be non-voting with voting members drawn from external bodies which have predominantly community, business, social or environmental interests. It is unlikely that any RTP could have nominees from all organisations which might provide benefit or that individual organisations would wish to put forward nominees for each of the five RTPs. Some sharing of expertise and inter-action could therefore be beneficial and a mechanism to facilitate this, perhaps involving the national transport agency might be advantageous. A basic principle should be to employ, or access all expertise required for the function, which will of course depend on RTP responsibilities and the relationship with the national transport agency.
7.8 Decision making.
A simple majority for decision making on transport related decisions would be appropriate with the decision making process and standing orders similar to those for local authorities. This will require a sensible quorum of members present and a practical way to deal with urgent decisions, perhaps using postal votes. For decisions changing the RTPs responsibilities or its level of autonomy the requirement for a two-thirds majority would assist in ensuring a broad concensus.
For all voting, each voting member should be allowed to have a nominated substitute. Consideration is required regarding the possibility of allowing a member, or substitute to have a veto where the RTP majority view is contrary to the direct interest of the body from which that member is drawn and that body has a responsibility in the area of interest concerned. This could arise for example with shared or overlapping responsibilities. The potential need for appeal mechanisms to the Minister or local authorities either collectively by the RTP or by an individual RTP member should also be explored.
SECTION C - FUNCTIONS
To justify the change from present arrangements and ensure efficient operation of RTPs they should undertake all functions which are best carried out at regional level. Councils will often be reluctant to give up current responsibilities and if unanimity is sought from all constituent councils for each RTP the functions transferred will be the lowest common denominator which is unlikely to be satisfactory.
If the Ministerial order conferring functions on an RTP is governed by the wishes of the partnership itself and its constituent councils (para 31) there is likely to be conflict and an unsatisfactory resolution. A preferred approach would be for the Executive to specify which functions should transfer to RTPs with the onus on councils to argue for different arrangements. To assist councils in relinquishing existing functions there should be incentives for them to do so. This could be by funding mechanisms whereby direct funding to RTPs might otherwise be lost if transfers did not take place and/or by proportionate direct funding to RTPs similar to the current arrangements for Police Boards.
Transfer of functions will clearly require staff transfers and/or secondments. The latter may be appropriate at the initial, perhaps transitory stage. However achieved, the transfer of functions and how they are carried out must be in a manner supported by relevant staff. To assist in this, early liaison is required on aspects such as timescales, transference of staff, secondments and use of consultants together with related financial effects and career implications. A reasonably consistent approach across Scotland (para 33) will assist with transitional arrangements and/or shared powers kept to the minimum necessary. It is essential to have clarity of responsibility at all times as well as clear capital and revenue mechanisms. With regard to specific questions:
9. Concurrent functions
RTPs must be directly accountable and must be seen to be accountable. This is unlikely to be achievable with Model 1 which should only be pursued if absolutely necessary as part of a staged transition. If there is any sharing of responsibility this should only be for clearly defined and different transport facilities. For example an RTP could be responsible for Bus Corridor measures and traffic management schemes involving strategic roads with constituent councils responsible for related measures on non-strategic roads and for traffic management more widely on such roads. Shared responsibilities without such clear demarcation would not only prejudice accountability but could prejudice implementation by RTPs of their transport strategy. A statutory requirement for RTPs to implement their strategies would assist in clarifying respective powers and the scope of control to ensure the necessary transfer of functions and avoidance of unrealistic aspirations.
10. Local authority functions to be delivered by RTPs
RTPs should be responsible for all functions which are strategic, are best delivered at regional level or where scale and economy dictate. Building on earlier comments regarding best use of expertise and financial and other resources in conjunction with the national transport agency all of the functions suggested in para 39 should be undertaken by RTPs. The aim should be to take a strategic regional approach and develop a regional 'centre of expertise'. As suggested in our earlier submission the RTPs would best fulfil this aim if they were responsible for the following current local authority functions -
- strategic non-trunk roads including joint bridge boards
- freight quality partnerships
- securing and managing contracts for subsided bus services
- bus quality partnerships and quality contracts
- road pricing / congestion charging
- local air and ferry service support
- off street and on street parking where charges are levied
- strategic transport interface with planning
- possible agency roles eg school and health transport.
There is also potential for RTPs to have a strategic role with regard to taxi licencing, roads and transport safety and transport statistics. Some of these aspects might be better undertaken by the national transport body, perhaps with RTPs acting in an agency role as previously discussed.
span class="sp1">11. West of Scotland RTP and SPT services.
The proposals are supported with SPT powers extended to cover all of the Region and (para 42) integrating roads and public transport functions at the regional level in a way that goes further than the PTA/E model. It would be desirable for this model also to apply in the other four regions.
12. Local authority powers in SPT Area to transfer.
The powers it would be sensible to transfer are those listed under 10 above which are not currently enjoyed by SPT i.e.
- strategic non-trunk roads including joint bridge boards
- freight quality partnerships
- road pricing / congestion charging
- off street and on street parking where charges are levied
- strategic transport, interface with planning.
13. The preferred model for adoption.
Option 3 is preferred for all 5 RTPs accepting that legislative complications may delay implementation other than in the West of Scotland RTP. Elsewhere as an interim measure, if necessary option 2 should be pursued with option 1 only used if considered essential during transitional arrangements.
14. Further functions to RTPs.
As discussed earlier there would be considerable merit in RTPs acting on behalf of the national transport agency. Proposed functions as outlined in our earlier submission are -
- medium, minor trunk road investment, operational maintenance
- piers and harbours, airfields (non local authority)
- local rail and bus stations
- concessionary travel monitoring and payments
- local ticketing initiative monitoring and payment regimes
- air and ferry service support (non-local)
- capital grants for investment.
SECTION D - FUNDING
The proposed revenue funding of RTPs by requisition from their constituent councils (para 44) is an improvement over present arrangements, for example with SPT. There would however still be conflict with constituent authorities over priorities in other areas of activity. A mechanism is required, as for the transfer of functions to encourage local authorities to support their representative on RTPs in voting for expenditure which is necessary to meet RTP aspirations. Proportionate direct funding by the Executive of amounts requisitioned from local authorities as now with Police Boards would assist in this. A preferred arrangement would however be for Executive revenue grant to be provided direct to RTPs so that none of the expenditure incurred by RTPs up to the grant assessed amount would represent an excess charge to the constituent councils.
With this approach RTPs would need to justify to their constituent councils any expenditure greater than that considered appropriate by the Executive. The basic level of RTP expenditure would not however be prejudiced and RTPs could take decisions with greater certainty that consequential costs would be met in future years. The points made against direct Executive funding in para 44 are not considered sufficiently strong to negate the approach advocated. For capital expenditure some relaxation of the constraints currently imposed by the Executive over local authority expenditure is required. In particular some relaxation over cash limits for borrowing.
Borrowing under the prudential borrowing regime (para 48) is a sensible approach. This should in the main be directly by the RTP with the costs incurred met through the revenue budget in future years. Exceptionally where the benefits from investment accrue for a single local authority and/or is justified more by that councils' policies, rather than the regional transport strategy, the constituent local authority should be able to contribute towards the cost. The proportions of contribution and future asset ownership would be a matter for negotiation between the RTP and council.
The Scottish Executive and other partners should be able to contribute funding, perhaps in conjunction with funding and potential agency arrangements established with the national transport agency. Such contributions and capital grants from elsewhere, such as the EU should all be additional to any cash limits which may be imposed on direct RTP or Council expenditure. With regard to the specific questions -
15. Alternatives to requisition.
The benefits from requisition could be improved upon by a direct grant funding regime as outlined above.
16. Classes of expenditure.
These are best met through
b) prudential borrowing
c) grants from Scottish Executive.
Direct revenue grant funding of RTPs by the Executive is preferred but if requisition is pursued this would apply best for regular organisational expenditure such as core staffing, running costs and routine levels of expenditure on provision of services, their maintenance or renewal. Prudential borrowing is appropriate for all investment undertaken by RTPs in accordance with their regional transport strategy and for initiatives to significantly improve levels of service of particular activities.
Scottish Executive grants are appropriate to obtain enhancements to STP investment or service improvement justified in national terms but not necessarily as regional developments under the terms of the regional transport strategy. Grant funding would also apply for all work undertaken under agency arrangements whether direct on behalf of the Executive or with the national transport agency.
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