Reshuffle: Transport and communities: Where next for the ‘greenest government ever’?

Richard Hebditch of the Campaign for Better Transport reflects on the reshuffle changes at the departments for communities and transport.


Richard Hebditch is the campaigns director of the Campaign for Better Transport

Both critics and supporters of the government claim yesterday’s reshuffle will not change government policy. But for those of us who are concerned about the government’s promise to be the greenest government ever, it looks like accelerating the move away from thinking about long-term policy towards short-term and desperate measures to get the economy moving. This will be at the expense of higher carbon emissions and damage to our natural environment.

Both the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have seen almost all their ministers cleared out – leaving only Eric Pickles from the previous DCLG team and the capable Norman Baker from the DfT team left. Both departments have run up against the Treasury in the last year.

The DfT has been resisting a push from the Treasury to give the go-ahead to lots of new road schemes. This is despite the fact there is probably only one more scheme that hasn’t already got the go-ahead that’s anywhere near ready. There are also plans mooted for private toll roads, or even privatisation of the Highways Agency.

DCLG, meanwhile, ended up offending Osborne and the Treasury by refusing to completely dismantle the planning system through the new streamlined National Planning Policy Framework. We now have Policy Exchange founder Nick Boles in charge of planning and two new bills proposed to have a second swing at the planning system. Both these changes could mean a new push for “concrete and tyres” to boost the economy.

The above is not in itself necessarily a political point. Looking back to Keynes, some on the left also backed such an approach. But we are in a very different world to the 1930s with a well-developed roads network. The challenges now are to unlock our cities through better public transport, walking and cycling and to cut carbon emissions from transport.

While we haven’t always agreed with recent policy from the Department for Transport, there has been a recognition of this in recent policy with more of a focus on the users of transport and a new more strategic approach.

The impact of Patrick McLoughlin’s arrival at transport is harder to gauge. Despite being an MP for more than a quarter of a century, McLoughlin’s views on many issues, transport included, are something of a mystery.

This is because the new Secretary of State has spent 15 years in the shadowy world of the Whips Office. To have survived in such an environment for a long period does, however, suggest two qualities: first, he is a party loyalist who can be trusted not to go native; second, he is experienced in driving through difficult and unpopular decisions.

It is not just Heathrow which could present headaches for the new Secretary of State. On rail fares, the government policy is highly contentious – to raise rail fares by an eye-watering 6.2 per cent come January. This will hit Home Counties commuters in Tory marginals particularly hard. It should be a pressing priority to ensure the chancellor heads off a revolt amongst commuters and Tory backbenchers alike.

Most of the network’s rail franchises are also due for renewal before the next General Election. With Richard Branson agitating through any means available, McLoughlin will need to ensure decisions are both transparent and in the interests of train users as well as the Treasury.

On roads, there is a need to rein in plans for privately funded schemes, the push for more toll roads and even privatising the Highways Agency (see the recent Campaign for Better Transport report (pdf on private roads). These have the potential to blow up in the coalition’s face, with the Treasury and No. 10 seemingly unaware new roads will trigger protests from environmental and local groups (including Conservative supporters), as they did in the 1990s.

As an aside, Simon Burn’s move to transport seems also designed to raise heckles over the government’s direction of travel.

So far, we are second-guessing what the ministerial changes signal. There remains an important job to be done.

Transport can play a role in supporting the economy, cutting carbon and tackling social exclusion but it needs a clear strategic vision and strong leadership to do that. Having had eight transport secretaries in the last ten years, there’s now a real need for consistency and to make sure the Department for Transport works for transport users and isn’t just a delivery arm for Treasury policy.

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40 Responses to “Reshuffle: Transport and communities: Where next for the ‘greenest government ever’?”

  1. Steve Hynd

    Combine this with Owen Paterson in DEFRA (with the backing of Lord Lawson) and we have ourselves a climate change dream team

  2. Newsbot9

    They’ve not touched the primary agents of destruction at the treasury and workfare and pensions.

  3. Newsbot9

    I must admit, I think Cameron has actually done a decent job in the reshuffle.

  4. Newsbot9

    Why worry? The alternative ‘green’ parties have all but died out. It’s a shame but I think Dave and Gideon will soon concrete over Dover!

  5. Newsbot9

    This above post is from a stalker and imitator, “John Pentatateuch”, not myself. You can see this if you go to his disqus profile –

  6. Newsbot9

    This above post is from a stalker and imitator, “johnpentatateuch”, not
    myself. You can see this if you go to his disqus profile-

  7. Newsbot9

    Why are you stalking me?

  8. Newsbot9

    Why are you stalking me? Still. Get a life.

  9. Newsbot9

    As ever, you’re the one who is making accounts specifically to stalk me, John Penta.

  10. Newsbot9

    As ever, you’re the one who is making accounts specifically to stalk me, John Penta! Typical far right fanatic.

  11. Newsbot9

    This is ridiculous. You are obviously a troll and a liar in the pocket of the far right and big banks. LOL. No one believes you.

  12. Newsbot9

    Yes, you’re continuing to harras and stalk me, and accuse me of what you have done, John Penta.

    Of course you think, as ever, that deception and impersonation is acceptable behavior, Tory.

  13. Newsbot9

    Look I really don’t know what you’re on about. If I really was this Jon Pental you claim I am then why doesn’t the link work to the ‘profile’ and why when I look at the other profile why can’t I see any of MY posts in the history – including this one! You are stalking me and spreading falsehoods – did you set up the other account to deliberately try to smear me? Typical right winger. Troll alert.

  14. Newsbot9

    Yes yes, you’ve created a new account and spammed posts out, John Penta, to make it seem credible. But sadly for you, it can be seen that all your posts were made since yesterday (whereas I’ve posted using disqus here since they switched to it), and I am the person with the twitter-linked account, not you.

    Yes, you’re a far right troll. Moderators, wake the **** up, I’ve emailed you several times now!

    edit: oh I see ANOTHER account.

    Yet another move in your stalking of me. This is getting to call-the-police proportions.

  15. Newsbot9

    It seems you are the one who is overtly interested in me! Leave me alone – whoever you are.

  16. Newsbot9

    Emailed, right. Okay, I’ll be going down the police station tomorrow, John Penta.

  17. Newsbot9

    I expect you know the way.

  18. Newsbot9

    Well yes, since I can see the police station across the road.

    You’re the one with the fresh-minted identity harassing me, but please keep adding to my complaint.

  19. florapatterson

    John Pentateuch’s stealing of your identity was noted by amazed00again yesterday on the Indy threads. He’s truly pathetic. You have my sympathy, Newsbot9. I think it’s because no one agrees with him and he suffers from irrationality and, well, nastiness.

  20. Newsbol9

    Harassing you? How? What precisely is it that I have said that has ‘harassed’ you. It is you who have threatened me, not the other way round. Looking at your twitter account it seems that you really do like reporting people. Including brave members of our armed forces who are currently risking their lives. Your behaviour is disgusting. Enjoy yourself tomorrow. More tax payers money wasted.

  21. Newsbot9

    Thanks. The indy moderators seem to be useless though (their “report” link is broken, and their email address tooltip is wrong…even ones to the right address seem to vanish into the void) and well…

  22. Newsbol9

    Thanks. Someone finally sees the light.

  23. Newsbot9

    You mean the member of the armed forces who talked, among other things, about nuking Scottish cities? Yes, the police were very happy to take a report on that.

    Trying to withhold justice from everyone else now? Typical – of course you view justice for anyone who isn’t like you as a waste of cash.

  24. Newsbot9

    And you do it again, John Penta. Pathetic.

  25. Newsbol9

    I understand that you will be interviewed by the police tomorrow. This is what comes of your behaviour. I hope it teaches you a lesson. Now leave me alone.

  26. Newsbot9

    Making things up as usual I see. You “understand” you’re threatening me, again, for using the same identity I have for some time. You think this is a crime, that you can impersonate and harass others at will.

    But no – I’m not the one who is stealing other people’s identities, John Penta.

  27. Newsbol9

    Listen. Let’s just agree to disagree. It’s obvious that you’re in the pocket of big business otherwise you wouldn’t be stalking me. Now, please, for the last time – leave me alone.

  28. Newsbot9

    You are continuing to post under a username which I have used for a long time, posting things which are very different to my views and claiming than I am doing anything wrong by using it.

    I am not about to surrender a username to your harassment. The stalking is entirely yours, and I’m not the only one who has noticed.

  29. Newsbol9

    Keeping track = stalking. This has to stop. Sigh.

  30. Newsbot9

    Yes, I’m sure you think using “follow” is stalking, but it’s not in the real world. Your attempted hijacking of my online identity and trying to claim that I was the imposter, on the other hand…

    No, changing your display name to “Newsbol9” now won’t stop me from making the complaint, John Penta.

  31. Newsbol9

    Yes, I see. You really believe that you say who you are. If I am posting things that are very different then this is because we obviously disagree. Why must I or anyone else simply agree with you? Stop trolling. It seems that all you do is whine and complain whilst calling other people liars and much worst. Welcome to the real world.

  32. Newsbot9

    As ever, you’re trying to defend, John Penta, your attempts to make out that I hijacked your online identity. Trying to intimidate me – again – won’t work. But keep adding to the complaint.

  33. Newsbol9

    Yes yes. Good luck with that. I’m going now. Bye.

  34. Newsbot9

    And? You had to post to try and deride me once more, I see, John Penta.

  35. Newsbol9

    One last thing. Nah… can’t be bothered.

  36. Selohesra

    Why would anyone want to impersonate botty? – he only posts drivel. Its been a bit quiet here recently so perhaps he’s started arguing with himself.

  37. Newsbot9

    Thank you for getting yourself added to the complaint as a possible perpetrator.

  38. Selohesra

    Lighten up mate – as you’ve said before you know who I am so you know it wasn’t me – but can’t you see the funny side?

  39. Newsbot9

    No, I cannot see the funny side to attempted identity theft and harassment. I believe, as you might recall, in prosecuting crimes individuals commit.

    (And no, I have no idea if it was you or not, I of course don’t know what you’re *doing*)

    If Disqus had said “oh right” and banned him I might of found it funny, instead I find it serious.

  40. Andre_Blurtress

    Why would anyone impersonate anyone on this forum, let alone @Newsbot9:disqus ? I think he needs to take a chill pill. 😉

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