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City Deals need urgent review for climate and equalities

Published 08 January 2018 by Transform Scotland

Transform witness Chris Day called for climate and equalities audits as part of our evidence.

The Local Government and Communities Committee has today published its report on the City Region Deals.

The report draws on evidence gathered by the LGC Committee in recent months, and makes a number of conclusions and recommendations on the City Region Deal process.

Among the Committee’s findings are:

  • There is a mismatch between the objectives of local government, and the UK and Scottish governments
  • Further clarification is required as to whether the focus should be on pure economic growth or inclusive growth
  • Project selection is too opaque, with little information available publicly, creating uncertainty as to what merited certain projects being chosen
  • Only the Glasgow City Region Deal is currently subject to the Gateway Review process and it is not yet clear what process will be followed for the other City Region Deals
  • All projects should be subject to a comprehensive equality impact assessment and a sustainability audit, both of which should be published

City Deals process favours unsustainable transport

It is clear from the Committee’s report that the City Deals have so far prioritised the development of unsustainable transport projects, primarily large road building projects. There is a lack of clarity and openness regarding the decision-making process for transport infrastructure investment in the City Deals, as well as the merits on which projects were chosen. For example, it is noted that the Levenmouth Rail Link project was not deemed appropriate for selection, yet the Sherrifhall road project in Edinburgh was deemed worthy of selection. The criteria on which these decisions were based are not known, and deserve further clarity.

The report also notes that many organisations who submitted evidence were critical of a lack of prioritisation for public transport, walking and cycling projects, instead prioritising funding for large road projects.

Commenting on the LGC Committee’s report, Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

We’re pleased that the Committee highlights the serious flaws in the City Region Deals. It’s clear that there’s a lack of clarity and transparency over the whole process, especially when it comes to transport.

This is particularly evident in the decision-making for investment in transport infrastructure. As the report points out, projects incentivising the use of private cars, such as Sheriffhall, were chosen ahead of the Levenmouth Rail Link — a project which would transform travel in Fife and offer multiple benefits to the area. It’s simply not clear what criteria were used to make these decisions.

We’re pleased to see the LGC Committee recommending a comprehensive equalities and sustainability assessment for all projects in the City Deals. If this had been done previously, public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure would undoubtedly have been much more present in the City Deals. However, it’s important that these audits aren’t simply a box-ticking exercise, and don’t use the flawed methodology for carbon accounting used in the Scottish Budget.”