Norman Baker fails to answer the question – again

March 30, 2013 by combehavendefenders

Pedalling away from difficult questions? Under-secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker

Pedalling away from difficult questions? Under-secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker

Undersecretary of State for Transport Norman Baker (the man responsible for commissioning the secret DfT recommendations concerning funding for the Link Road) has evaded a written Parliamentary Question from Brighton MP Caroline Lucas regarding the incompatibility of funding for the Road (which the DfT assesses to be of “low or medium value for money”) and DfT policy (which only funds projects of less than high value for money in “exceptional circumstances”).

He did, however, acknowledge that “Any expenditure carried out to date by [East Sussex County Council (ESCC)] has been at its own risk”, as the Link Road has not yet received final approval for the £56m of funding from central government.

In his 21 March answer, Baker states that,

‘Value for money plays an important part in our investment decisions but it is not the only consideration. Our assessment of schemes follows a wider, staged approach as set out in The Transport Business Case in line with HM Treasury’s recommended “five case” model (strategic, economic, commercial, financial, and management cases). The Department takes into account the evidence in all five cases when making investment decisions.’

This is utterly disingenuous; if the road is not likely to provide the necessary value for money (of the schemes funded by the DfT in 2011, 100% were either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ value for money: the Link Road is exactly on the border between ‘low’ and ‘medium’), it should not be funded, regardless of any other factors.  That this one has been funded – and that the DfT is so desperate that its recommendations not be released – only goes to show that there was almost certainly pressure put on the DfT by the Treasury to allow the funding.

Maria Eagle also rebuffed

Shadow Transport Minister Maria Eagle

Shadow Transport Minister Maria Eagle

On March 18, Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle was also given the brush off by Norman, after asking a series of questions related to the Link Road. Ignoring the questions, Norman Baker simply stated that

‘The Department is currently assessing the final funding application from East Sussex county council, submitted in December 2012, and this work is not yet complete’.

He then referred her to a page on the DfT website; anyone hoping to glean some information from this would be out of luck, as the link doesn’t work.  Perhaps the DfT has spent so much on dodgy roads, there’s nothing left for IT.

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