Help Cycling UK reverse the cuts to cycling funding
Help Cycling UK reverse the cuts to cycling funding
On 9 March, a few days before the budget, and slightly hidden by a wider announcement on HS2 and roads investment, news came through that capital funding for cycling and walking in England over the next two years was being massively cut. Three years on from the publication of the Government’s excellent Gear Change vision for cycling and walking, someone has decided to back-pedal.
Ask your MP to tell the Government to restore the active travel budget
I’ve paused for a couple of weeks before writing this article, because I wanted to be clear about the figures, and what this meant for local authorities. Unfortunately, two weeks’ later, there’s still real confusion about what money might be available to which local authorities and whether this amounts to a variation of the Government’s second statutory Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS2).
It's unclear if the Government assessed its own ability (and that of Active Travel England’s) to meet the objectives to increase walking and cycling set out within CWIS2 with the resources they’re making available – though we’ll continue to press for answers to all of these questions.
What we do know is that the transport secretary announced that overall active travel funding for the next two years was being reduced from £3.8 billion to £3 billion, with a capital funding commitment on active travel of at least a further £100m over that period – so £50 million a year.
Here’s where it starts to get tricky however. Earlier this year, the Department for Transport announced that £200 million capital funding was available to local authorities outside London to bid for, from a dedicated funding pot known as the Active Travel Fund 4 (ATF4). So, acting on that invitation, local authorities duly submitted funding bids in late February for a share of £200 million to deliver schemes in the year form April 2023 onwards. We should find out which local authorities have secured what funding imminently, because after all, these are for schemes to be delivered in the next 12 months. However, it looks like only £50 million will be allocated rather than £200 million, which means a 75% cut in dedicated active travel funding for capital schemes.
I say ‘looks like’ because getting clear answers and clarification is proving extremely difficult, as this quick search on ‘funding for cycling and walking’ on the ‘They Work for You’ parliamentary search website shows.
Initially, Cycling UK and our colleagues within the walking and cycling alliance (WACA), understood that we were looking at a two thirds cut to promised capital investment in infrastructure for walking and cycling, from £308 million to only £100 million for the next two years, as set out in our joint letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak, urgently seeking a reversal of these cuts.
The other complication is that we eventually end up having to talk about dedicated funding for active travel, and funding which might be available from other avenues for active travel. Basically, ATF4 is a funding pot specifically for active travel schemes. However, it’s fair to say that local authorities can potentially secure funding elsewhere for schemes which include active travel - one example being the Levelling up Fund. This makes it difficult to define how much money will be available for active travel, or will be spent, and there’s also a huge geographic variation.
If you’re living in a local authority within one of the city regions of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands or West Yorkshire, the reality is that £5.7 billion has already been confirmed for sustainable transport through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRST) for the five year period to April 2027. Some of that will go towards active travel schemes, and whilst it’s proving difficult to obtain clarification, it looks likely that local authorities within those city regions might not be impacted as severely by this month's cuts to dedicated active travel funding, because they aren’t as dependant on ATF4 for their active travel funding.
Conversely, if you don't live in one of those seven city regions, however you look at the numbers, the cuts are huge and are bound to impact significantly on your local authority's ability to deliver high quality schemes, and indeed invest the time and resource to develop those schemes.
That’s why it’s vital the Government sees sense and reverses these cuts, because the evidence for the economic, health, and wider benefits of investment in active travel is overwhelming, as summarised in our getting there with cycling report last year, and in our six reasons for cycle lanes summary.
After writing jointly with others to the prime minister, Cycling UK has contacted every MP in England outside London, asking them to write to or raise this with the transport secretary, but we need your help to increase the pressure.
If you live in England (but not in London), we really need you to write to your MP. We’ve made this incredibly easy with our online e-action template, which you can easily amend if you prefer. Please help us stop the cuts to active travel funding by emailing your MP today.
Add your voice: write to your MP
If your MP comes back to you with a positive response, please do let us know. We’re anxious to speak to supportive MPs to secure their backing for an immediate reversal of these cuts, and commitment to increased long term funding for active travel.
And if you do want to get more involved, for example arranging to speak to or meet your MP, you can always email the campaigns team. We’re always happy to try and give advice about points you might like to raise.