Portsmouth City Council may have to return Transforming Cities Fund cash to government if not spent

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The Department for Transport is ‘reviewing’ the South East Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme following concerns recent economic turmoil is jeopardising it, the roads minister has confirmed.

And there is a risk that Portsmouth City Council may have to hand back some of the £56m it was awarded if it is not spent by the deadline at the end of this month.

Council leaders have said some work planned as part of the scheme had already been scaled back in a bid to meet tight funding deadlines enforced as part of the £56m Transforming Cities Fund grant.

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Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for transport, Councillor Lynne Stagg, said work was progressing but there was a fear that delays brought about by high inflation and supply issues, particularly over the last year, could lead it to miss the deadline.

Traffic on the Rudmore Roundabout. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150032-6)Traffic on the Rudmore Roundabout. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150032-6)
Traffic on the Rudmore Roundabout. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150032-6)

‘South East Hampshire Rapid Transit is a great help in improving road infrastructure and we are already seeing the benefit, particularly in bus journey time, but we have worries,’ she said. ‘The Department for Transport is saying that they could take funding back if work is late.

‘We’ve already cut back some minor things at Portsbridge Roundabout purely to save time but these delays are caused by things completely out of our hands.’

The grant was awarded in 2020 and set a three-year deadline for work to be completed with any money for projects not finished in that time returned to the government.

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Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, roads minister Richard Holden said the government wanted to make sure its funding ‘delivers for people in Portsmouth and Hampshire’.

‘I don’t want to see anything rushed,’ he said. ‘We have a review ongoing into that [the Transforming Cities Fund projects].

‘We have put major investment into funding road infrastructure in Hampshire, including the Transforming Cities Fund and we want to make sure it is working well.

‘It would be good to take a pause on that and make sure we are doing that – it is a huge amount of money and we need to make best use of it.’

The South East Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme is made up of 23 individual schemes with the aim of improving public transport and active travel options in and around Portsmouth.