To consider a report of the Director of Corporate Services providing the Members of the Transport Committee with Merseytravel's revenue and capital budgets and proposals for prices for consideration.
John Fogarty, Director of Corporate Resources, presented the Merseytravel Budget Setting Report for 2020/21, which would be presented at the LCRCA the following week for approval alongside the recommendations made by the Transport Committee on the Mersey Tunnel Tolls 2020/21.
It was explained that the report proposed to increase the Transport Levy by £2million in line with the increase in RPI. The report outlined some of the major transport plans for the Combined Authority such as Rolling Stock and other transport infrastructure schemes that were being developed into a robust pipeline for further rounds of government funding.
Alongside new schemes, the budget report also covered a £30 million investment in walking and cycling under its traditional transport remit. The budget also allowed for further consideration of the options available to the Metro Mayor using devolved bus powers to ensure that bus provided the best possible social benefit to residents of the LCR.
Regarding risk, the report outlined the Merseyrail Network, increase in PWLB interest rates and the reduction in Special Rail Grant as the most significant. Taking these risks into account, the settlement in the budget would allow Merseytravel to continue to operate all of its front-facing services including the current bus network.
Councillor Foulkes stated that this proposal was the first rise in the Transport Levy since 2012 and that an inflationary increase was appropriate. The budget would be tighter and harder to sustain and it was suggested that the LCRCA engage again with Central Government to review the Special Rail Grant.
The Chair thanked the officers for their work on the budget and agreed the raise in the transport levy was modest given the previous years of cuts to the levy and district councils alike. It was acknowledged that the levy was down a third from the rate set in 2010 and it was a testament to the teams in Merseytravel and the LCRCA that they were still able to deliver projects and services.
Councillor Cleary highlighted section 4.14 of the report which discussed pensions and acknowledged the role of the Pensions Committee in fully funding a scheme that was beneficial to both Local Authorities and the LCRCA.
A motion was put forward by the Chair of the Transport Committee to include the following recommendation in paragraph 2.1 of the report, seconded by Councillor Gordon Friel: -
(a) the Transport Committee note that the 2019 Conservative Manifesto states that they will give City Regions the funding to upgrade their bus and train services to make them as good as London’s and in light of this statement, recommends that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority continues to lobby and pursue the Conservative government to make good on their pledge and deliver a significant funding package to the Liverpool City Region to do so.
Councillor Jones wished to show his full support for the motion and offered his assistance with lobbying central government.
Councillor Friel noted that a rail opportunity that was accessible was Burscough Curve which could apply for some funding if it became available as long as the city region wasn’t excluded from any opportunities.
The Motion was carried unanimously.
RESOLVED that the Transport Committee agree the amended recommendations as follows:
(b) request the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority approve the 2020/21 operating grants for both public transport and Mersey Tunnels operating activities as detailed in section 4 of the report;
(c) the fare/price increases included within this report are considered and approved and that the financial implications of these fare increases be included within the draft budget for 2020/21; and
(d) the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority be requested to approve the capital programme as detailed in section 4 of the report.
(e) the Transport Committee note that the 2019 Conservative Manifesto states that they will give City Regions the funding to upgrade their bus and train services to make them as good as London’s and in light of this statement, recommends that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority continues to lobby and pursue the Conservative government to make good on their pledge and deliver a significant funding package to the Liverpool City Region to do so.