Road scheme bids to cost £2.5m

TRANSPORT bosses have been accused of wasting taxpayers' money by supporting five major schemes – costing up to £2.5million in preparatory work – when they have been told only one or two are likely to succeed.

By Jonathan Barnes

TRANSPORT bosses have been accused of wasting taxpayers' money by supporting five major schemes – costing up to £2.5million in preparatory work – when they have been told only one or two are likely to succeed.

Suffolk County Council is trying to get the Government go-ahead for all five projects and estimates the cost of preparing each full bid as between £250,000 and £500,000.

But it also has been told that funding is unlikely to be approved for more than one or two of the schemes – prompting concerns the authority is wasting money on projects that are doomed to failure.


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The council's executive committee gave its backing for the five schemes on Tuesday and pledged to make strong cases for each.

They are a bypass for Brandon, an A146 bypass between Barnby and Carlton Colville, a relief road for four villages on the northern A12, an integrated transport package for north Lowestoft and a plan for sustainable transport in Ipswich.

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The Labour-Liberal Democrat administration has to submit a local transport plan to the Government next July, covering the period from 2006 to 2011, and said the five schemes are equal contenders for inclusion on the wishlist and a chance of funding.

That is despite planners telling councillors it is "unlikely" that more than one or two projects will get the go-ahead from the Government, particularly as some run the risk of being thrown out on environmental grounds.

Papers before Tuesday's meeting also estimated the cost of working up full bids as up to £500,000.

Guy McGregor, the Conservative group spokesman for transport, said the council was "showing no regard for the hard-pressed council taxpayers".

He added: "You would have thought they would have at least prioritised the schemes and these are some extraordinary decisions. It's particularly strange as the two of them – Ipswich and Carlton Colville – seem to have come out of thin air."

Peter Aldous, deputy leader of the Tories, added: "We are in an awkward position as there is a backlog of very worthy schemes that should have already been started on. But I think we should be concentrating on the top priorities."

Reg Hartles, chairman of the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk, said: "We can't afford to go for all these schemes and waste as much as £1.5m if they are not going to succeed.

"We're just talking about costs of paperwork. They should concentrate on the most important schemes and think about the others at a more appropriate time."

Julian Swainson, portfolio holder for transport, said bids would only be supported if the authority thought they had a chance of succeeding.

"We are looking to see which of those schemes are suitable for a full bid to Government and require more work," he said.

"That is why we have started this process well in advance of the deadline in July – to determine those schemes which we think are likely to pass the Government criteria for funding.

"But I see no reason why all five shouldn't be supported. We have had informal guidelines on the number of schemes likely to succeed, but there are no rules saying that only one or two will do so.

"It is our ambition to get funding for all five – all are equally strong contenders and it would be unfair to any of the communities involved to prioritise them at this stage."

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