The Tory party would audit the £9bn Thames Gateway programme to make sure it “delivered and delivered well”, Stewart Jackson, the shadow regeneration minister, said yesterday
He also hinted that more powers would be devolved to local decision-makers under the party’s “localism” agenda.
Jackson told the Thames Gateway Forum this week that the structure of delivery bodies was over-complicated and that it was hard to see the “lines of accountability” and what had been achieved so far.
“In the next Comprehensive Spending Review, we have to know what chance projects have of getting off the ground and what they will deliver if they do. We have to make sure they deliver and deliver well,” he said.
He added that all government investment should offer value for money and that planning under the Tories would be simpler, quicker and cheaper. The party is set to publish a green paper covering the topic in December.
Jackson’s comments came as John Denham, the communities secretary, told the forum that Labour had an “unwavering” commitment to the scheme.
Denham gave the all-clear to a £500m proposal to transform Purfleet in Essex via a PPP between Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation and private enterprise.
“Our commitment to the Gateway is unwavering as we know it will play a crucial role within the UK economy, driving growth across the South-east and beyond,” said Denham.
However, government officials speaking at the event were keen to play down expectations of an immediate surge in development and housing. They implied that the scheme was a long-term project for economic growth.
The HCA is reviewing spend on housing growth in the Gateway, in response to a £70m cut in public funding. Budgets are likely to be cut for schemes that cannot guarantee immediate output.
Sir Bob Kerslake, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, admitted financial constraints would lead to a smaller number of local delivery agencies in the growth area.
He added that an assessment of individual schemes’ “strategic fit” and whether there was support from Gateway residents would be used to decide which projects to take forward.
Joe Montgomery, director general at the communities department, said the Thames Gateway was the “poor stepchild” of the London region, but that with more private investment it could achieve its potential.