Ouch! The DfT’s letter

Stockport Council leader Alex Ganotis sent a request for £500,000 to the Government on 16th January to pay for the next stage of preparations to extend the A555 to Bredbury (aka the A6-M60 Bypass).

Cllr Ganotis received  a sharp rebuff on February 9th which the Council kept under wraps for four months. It has been revealed by a Freedom of Information request.

Cllr Ganotis’s letter would have been drafted by Council officials. In it he did not refer to the eventual estimated cost of the Bypass of nearly half a billion. But somehow the Government’s Department for Transport worked this out! An Outline Business Case was included with the letter which contained the figure – plus the Government had received a similar request from Stockport for funding in 2016.

In the letter, the Department is dismayed by the total cost of the road and says “budgets are not unlimited”. It points out that it turned down the Council’s previous request for next-stage funding “to avoid raising unrealistic expectations” – i.e. that the half a billion needed to complete the road would be forthcoming.

The Department indicates that it has not considered the funding request itself because it was received outside a normal funding round – and there are none scheduled. It uses the discouraging phrase “if you choose to continue”, about the application.

The Department’s diplomatic language doesn’t hide its irritation. Underlying the letter is the Department’s perception that Stockport Council produced a request for another installment in a very expensive project with the expectation that the funding would be produced immediately, despite the fact that a similar request had already been turned down not long before.

The letter says “lower cost alternatives” should be looked at. It also suggests that if the Council wants to keep on seeking finance from the Governnment, then Cllr Ganotis get Greater Manchester Combined Authority to make it a “strategic priority”.

The letter finishes with a correction to the Council’s letter. Cllr Ganotis had made much of the possibility of getting funding through a new Major Road Network scheme but the Department says the scheme would have a maximum of £100 million – ie less than the “more than the £450 million” needed.

Council officials are trying to keep the Bypass nightmare alive by a new SEMMMS Refresh strategy document. This could lead to the Council reapplying to the Government for funding for the road in a few years’ time.