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South Yorks councils ‘may struggle to spend DfT grant’


21 September 2020

The Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has voiced concern about the ability of member authorities to spend all the £166m Transforming Cities Fund grant awarded by the DfT.

The funding, awarded in March, must be spent by the end of March 2023. But David Whitley, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority’s senior programme manager (transport), told the transport board: “The programme is at risk of significant under-performance resulting in a risk of considerable grant being returned to the DfT.  There are already concerns that scheme promoters are increasingly seeking to move project spend towards the end of the programme.” 

The combined authority’s bid, submitted late last year, proposed a spend profile of £20m in 2020/21, £81m in 2021/22, and £65m in 2022/23. 

The councils have already adjusted this to £16m in 2020/21, £72m in 2021/22 and £78m in 2022/23. Whitley said this was “expected to change further”.

Spending was being moved into later years partly because of Covid-19, he said.

“Issues include delays to data collection and the need to re-consider how consultation is undertaken, both of which could affect delivery of the overall programme by six to nine months.” 

The conurbation has also received a number of additional Government funds recently, with end dates ranging from September 2020 to March 2022. “Although welcomed, there is a risk that there is a considerable and continued knock-on effect on Transforming Cities Fund delivery as existing scheme promoter resources are stretched across multiple priorities.”

Whitley said there could be a lack of capacity in the contractor marketplace because of pressures from other infrastructure projects. 

The combined authority is trying to mitigate the challenges  through early engagement with councils. It is to review the deliverability of projects and could remove those that are deemed at risk, reallocating the funding to projects that can be delivered in the timescale.

Combined authority officers are also trying to understand if mayoral combined authorities that received their Transforming Cities Fund grants funds directly, rather than through a bidding process, have additional flexibilities on the expenditure. If so, the Sheffield City Region could seek these flexibilities too. 

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