ACT calls into question elements of Bike Hub Levy spending, publishes own findings

The Association of Cycle Traders has this morning published a breakdown of the Bike Hub contribution expenditure following an ongoing debate on a cycling industry trade forum.

The Bike Hub levy, which is a voluntary 0.1% charge on sales put through UK bike industry tills, then matched by partner suppliers and topped up by historic Government contribution of around c.£1m, has to date raised an estimated £4,531,333 from the trade alone since its 2003 inception. Spend is then allocated to grass roots cycling projects including Bike Week, Go Ride and the LCC’s 2016 mayoral hustings, among other grassroots and sport cycling development schemes. A total historical income just shy of £5,650,000 has been outlined in the document released today.

There has however been a growing discontent on clarity of spend and the ACT has today published its own findings based both on available accounts and data from representatives of bike retail and supplier contributors to the fund who are also members.

Calling into question elements of the accounts that have been previously flagged as lacking transparency by contributors, the ACT writes: “There are evidently large gaps in current reporting e.g. the BAGB website states “Bike Hub’s iPhone and Android journey planning app cost £15,000 to develop.” Whereas the published findings reflect costs to date of c.£96,000!” 

Further to the questioning the spend on the Tinderhouse-made app, independent bike retailers present in the discussion on the trade only BikeTradeBuzz Forum have also called into question spend on the BikeHub website, totaling £32,632, among other segments of the accounts. The website is based upon a WordPress template, something which can be often delivered free for a basic website.

The accounts also highlight eight years of spend amounting to £138,795 on the now redundant, a website that preceded and in 2010 merged into the domain with the help of The Roundhouse of Newcastle.

CyclingIndustry.News has reached out to Carlton Reid, who manages the digital portfolio on behalf of the Bicycle Association, for comment on the costings and tendering process.

Having ceased to have any involvement in the Bike Hub fund during the last decade, ACT director Chris Compton outlined how the association’s members had previously made recommendations on improvement to the Levy and how it is run. Compton alleges that these were rejected by the Bicycle Association and describes prior involvement as “tokenistic”, despite “representing c.50% of contributions to the levy.”

The ACT further goes on to say that it has been engaging with Australia’s Cycling Promotion Fund to discuss how voluntary industry funding drives for grassroots cycling promotion should function.

Having had a close dialogue here and observed how such a scheme is managed elsewhere, the ACT concludes by stating:

“Given the current retail climate and pressure on the independent retail sector in the UK the ACT would question whether it is relevant for independent retailers in the UK to be contributing to an industry fund rather than investing in their own businesses at this time. A truly voluntary fund would allow each and every business to make that choice themselves.”

Both the BAGB and the ACT have formerly locked horns on other issues, most recently a domain name dispute.

The Bicycle Association’s operations director Steve Garidis last week told CyclingIndustry.News that he understood member concerns on transparency and would work towards greater clarity, ensuring that bike businesses know where their money is being spent.

“It’s a legitimate concern,” said Garidis. “Before I came along there was no real resource to keep these things in check as most elements are run on a volunteer basis. The BA, the longest running fund of its type in the UK, has a great story in that no management fees have been paid for by member subscriptions. Since my arrival I have inherited a dwindling core of contributors, so some considerable re-invigoration is required to safeguard some of the work we’ve carried out.

“A good example of effective use of the spend would be to assist the LCC in driving forward the 2016 mayoral hustings. The £15,000 chipped in from the Levy put cycling at the forefront of the election as a genuine campaign issue. That, i hope, begins to set the tone nationwide.”

A secondary fund, dubbed the Bicycle Industries Fund, was proposed toward the end of 2016 further calling on the industry to invest in advocacy efforts. The Bike Hub Levy would remain focused on efforts such as British Cycling’s Go-Ride youth programme, Sustrans’ Big Pedal event and campaigning efforts by the London Cycling Campaign and Cycling UK (CTC).

“The UK bicycle business has been fighting for more or less the same number of sales for some considerable time now, so we’ve really got to pull together to ensure cycling’s growth doesn’t slide if we’re to grow as an industry,” said Garidis at the time. “The trade has a huge collective voice that needs to switch on to advocacy efforts. This new drive won’t be purely be based around financial contribution, we’d like to see more time spent on initiatives to drive grassroots participation, even supply of bicycles by brands to such things would be welcome.”

The Bicycle Industries Fund, should it come to fruition, may loop back in terms of return on investment. It has been mooted that contributors would be acknowledged as drivers of grassroots cycling on promotional websites.

Expenditure of the Bicycle Association’s 2015 and 2016 accounts are as yet to be published, though estimates based on available data are included in the ACT’s breakdown found here. Accounts to the year ended 31st December 2014 are further found here.