Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has received praise for dedicating funds to improve UK air quality, but has also been widely criticised by cycle advocates for failing to mention any allocated budget for cycling.
As part of a wide ranging Spending Round announcement, setting out departmental spending plans for 2020-2021, the Chancellor allocated £13.8 billion more for public services, focusing on health, policing and education.
Cycling UK labelled Javid’s announcement “a squandered opportunity”, while Sustrans noted the lack of cycling and walking investment “suggests [it] is not a priority”.
What are the kinds of investment promises would cycle advocates have liked to see? Probably those listed here, which CI.N Editor Mark Sutton put together when the HS2 review was underway (before the project was delayed for five years).
The Chancellor did dedicate £90 million to decarbonisation, air quality and biodiversity. He added that £250 million will also be provided to the Green Climate Fund – dedicated to helping meet the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Spending Round ‘reaffirmed’ the government’s commitment to the NHS too, with a cash increase of £33.9 billion a year by 2023-24 compared to 2018-19 budjets – according to the Treasury.
With (in some cases) extra funding being dedicated to improving air quality and the NHS, it’s arguably a pity that cycling often falls ‘between departments’, despite having the potential to deliver on investment for the Department for Health, Department for Environment and many others. As it is, cycle budget usually comes from the Department for Transport, now headed by Grant Shapps, with Chris Heaton-Harris the minister responsible for cycling.
Xavier Brice, Sustrans Chief Executive said: “Whilst we welcome the announcement of an additional £30 million to tackle our pressing air quality crisis, we are disappointed with the lack of focus on walking and cycling in this Spending Round.
“Investing in walking and cycling to make them attractive, safe and convenient methods of transport for shorter journeys would reduce our reliance on cars and improve air quality in our towns and cities. This is especially important when parliament’s Science and Technology Committee recently reaffirmed the need for fewer not just cleaner vehicles if we are to meet the Government’s own targets on climate change.
However, the Chancellor failed to mention any allocated funding to the Department for Transport that would help the Government implement its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, and meet the targets the Strategy sets out including doubling cycling trips.
“This Spending Round was an opportunity for the UK Government to show exactly how committed they are to achieving their cycling and walking targets. The lack of investment suggests this is not a priority.”
Cycling UK Chief Executive Paul Tuohy said, “Today’s Spending Round was a squandered opportunity that showed the Government’s lack of commitment to protecting the environment and public health.
“We’re facing a climate crisis, an air pollution crisis, a congestion crisis and an inactivity-related health crisis. Getting more people out of cars, particularly for short journeys, is part of the solution to all of these crises, but this won’t happen by magic and by simply setting targets to increase active travel, when what’s required is a major increase in investment.”
Since the Chancellor’s Spending Round, the Department for Transport has pledged to allocate £20 million to the National Cycle Network.