19.1 The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport introduced the report. Transport for the South East (TfSE) is a Sub National Transport Body (SNTB) which has been formed by 16 local authority bodies in the south east. The aim of TfSE is to facilitate economic growth by developing and putting in place strategic transport policies for the whole geographic area. The 16 bodies have formed a shadow body and have co-opted representatives from the five Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) that cover the region onto the TfSE Board. The strength of having a SNTB is that the Secretary of State for Transport has to have regard to the strategic transport priorities established by TfSE.
19.2 ESCC is the accountable body for the shadow body, and is the hosting body for accounting, staff, and receiving Department for Transport (DfT) monies. There is a monetary contribution (levy) from each authority which is being used to fund a small interim staff team to take forward the submission to Government and develop the Transport Strategy. All staff costs are funded by the levy and there is an Inter Authority Agreement (IAA) to protect against redundancy or wind up costs should the Government not agree to formally establish TfSE.
19.3 So far TfSE has obtained £1m from the DfT to develop the Transport Strategy, which was helped by the partners’ willingness to contribute to development of the SNTB via the levy. TfSE has also responded to consultations (e.g. the second Road Investment Strategy RIS2; the Network Rail consultations on the East Grinstead pinch point; Hasting and Bexhill rail link development; and improvements to the A21and A27). It has also highlighted the impact of the Southampton and Dover ports on East Sussex economy.
19.4 The Committee discussed the report and raised a number of points which are summarised below.
19.5 The Committee asked from an East Sussex Resident’s point of view, what more is going happen than if ESCC did not take part in TfSE. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport explained that once TfSE has official status, the Secretary of State for Transport has to have regard to the strategic transport priorities established by TfSE and cannot ignore them. This provides a strong cohesive view on where transport investment priorities lie for the area. The main benefit is that it allows ESCC to have an influence on the national transport infrastructure that benefits East Sussex, but is not in East Sussex. It fills the current gap in spatial planning between local and national planning policies. There is also the benefit of influencing where DfT money is invested in the future.
19.6 Some of the Committee Members felt that the £58,000 contribution appeared to be unfair on the smaller councils, and asked whether an allocation based on population or geographic area would be a fairer way of apportioning contributions. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport responded that the view the TfSE Board took was that each county or unitary authority would have one vote and an equal contribution to reflect this (although unitary bodies contribute a slightly smaller amount as they have a smaller budget). It was felt that it was better to get all parties working together. It is also important to bear in mind that TfSE has successfully levered in around £1m from the DfT, and hopes to lever in more money in the future (e.g. Midlands Connect currently receives £50m for smart ticketing alone).
19.7 The Review Board asked if TfSE will deliver schemes locally. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport responded that projects like the Bexhill Link Road would not have been funded if East Sussex did not have a more strategic outlook. The Economic Connectivity Review, produced by TfSE in March this year, shows the thinking on where key transport corridors are and there is also a recognition of the importance of ports to the East Sussex economy. It is also possible that funding for improvements to the A27 (e.g. the construction of dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate) will get into the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2).
19.8 The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport clarified that all the staff costs (including on costs such as pension contributions) of the interim staff structure are fully recovered via levy payments, but his time is not charged to the TfSE budget. He also confirmed that the Governance structure in the submission to Government will include the level of contributions made locally to fund TfSE.
19.9 The Lead Member for Economy outlined that TfSE is critical for economic growth in the County. It is important to get the best opportunity for investment in strategic infrastructure in East Sussex. Central Government regards SNTB’s as a way for authorities to put local priorities forward, so it is critical that ESCC is a participant in TfSE. It has also enabled representatives from East Sussex to meet with Ministers to discuss the County’s needs.
19.10 The Committee RESOLVED to:
1) Note the significant progress that has been made with the establishment of Transport for the South East as a Shadow Sub National Transport Body; and
2) Note the potential implications of the establishment of TfSE for East Sussex County Council and transport in East Sussex.