Transport Infrastructure: Devon and Somerset

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 4:16 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:16, 23 Ebrill 2024

What a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. Obviously, I accept and acknowledge that, when you have served your constituents in the south-west for so long, you will be exceptionally interested in a debate such as this one, which has been secured by my hon. Friend Mr Liddell-Grainger. I also genuinely acknowledge the passion and the fervour that my hon. Friend has brought, as always, to this particular issue. I commend him for the tone of his speech and for the fact that he is sticking up for his constituents, as he has done so very well for many a year.

This issue is clearly something that we all care about. There is no doubt whatsoever that all our constituents are passionately concerned about the state of the roads that they have to utilise, whether that is as a driver, as a farmer, as someone who does logistics and deliveries as part of a business, or as someone trying to engage regularly in active travel. All those activities are affected by the state of our roads and we are all conscious of that.

One must look at the consequential decisions that the Government have made over the last year in particular to address some of those problems, because if I look back at the situation approximately 16 or 18 months ago and compare it with the situation now, I see that it has been utterly transformed. That has happened in three ways. The core base budget that both local authorities had was substantial and had been going up periodically, but there is no doubt that it was a struggle; we all acknowledge that. To a lesser or greater degree, that is true of different local authorities up and down the country.

Clearly, the first thing that happened was the spring Budget of 2023, which saw a significant uplift to both local authorities: just under £5 million to Somerset and £9 million to Devon. Subsequently, the decision of the Prime Minister in October 2023 in relation to HS2 utterly transformed the funding increase, because there is a base increase of funding ultimately of 30% in the case of both local authorities. That is transformational funding—there is no question whatsoever about that.