Budget ‘airbrushing out any role for cycling’ in plans for post-pandemic recovery, says Cycling UK

Cycling UK has said the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is “airbrushing out any role for cycling in plans for a post-pandemic recovery” in its assessment of his claims that the Government is one “to invest in new infrastructure”.

The charity said the lack of cycling and walking in his address to Parliament was reinforced by its omission in the document outlining the detail of the Budget 2021.

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK’s chief executive, said: “It’s right that the Chancellor sets out his plans for the future wellbeing and prosperity of the nation, but his and the Treasury’s complete disregard for cycling’s role in this future is a complete failure to make good on this Government’s plans to build back better.”

Last May, the Government announced it would invest £2 billion in cycling and walking over five years leading up to 2025 to meet its ambition to double cycling trips from 2% of all journeys by the same year.

In total, £250 million was allocated for 2020/2021, with £257 million set aside for the coming year (2021/2022). This means there is still £1.5 billion to be spent for the three years leading up to 2025. Cycling UK has said that, at this rate, unless investment doubles over the following three years, the Government will not meet its own spending commitments.

The charity said the Government’s ambitions to double cycling are ‘already projected to fail’ unless the rate of investment is increased. It argues that for the Government to have a ‘realistic’ chance of meeting its target, investment would need to be between £6-8 billion.

“It’s impossible to have a ‘green recovery’ if we don’t actually invest in our future,” added Mitchell. “Investment in cycling costs very little compared to other essential transport infrastructure but has a huge return on investment. If this really is a Government which plans to invest in new infrastructure, and which aims to ‘keep our streets safe’ and ‘support the most vulnerable’ then investing in cycling and walking makes simple economic sense.

“Instead of this, we have a budget that is airbrushing out any role for cycling in its plans for a post-pandemic recovery.”

Department for Health figures show for every £1 spent on cycling infrastructure it makes at least £13 for the exchequer, close to four times more than the return on investment for road bypass schemes which typically generate £3.70 for every £1 spent.

Elsewhere in the Budget, Sunak announced that small businesses will be given help to boost their software and training under a Help to Grow scheme.

Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have welcomed the extensive support packages for small businesses that have been made available, but continued to stress the need for wider skills and digital support to help businesses recover and return to growth.

“We welcome the Help To Grow packages announced as a strong step forwards in practical business support. We know small businesses will be the engine of recovery for the UK economy and embracing all opportunities like digital training, digital vouchers and expert management training will be key to unlocking that potential.

“The new business grants for those hardest hit by restrictions are also extremely good news and a step in the right direction. Retail, hospitality, leisure and personal care have been devastated by the pandemic and need all the help they can get to get back on their feet. I am also pleased to see local councils incentivised to distribute their discretionary grants too as these should be a lifeline for a range of sectors, but have been widely held up across England.

“Further measures to reduce costs for small businesses, like an extension to furlough and the business rates holiday, cuts to VAT rates and other help to pay bills through the Bounce Back Loan scheme, will all be welcome.

“There is also a need for a strategy to address and leverage the sweeping structural changes to the UK economy that the pandemic has wrought, such as changes to the high street and the mass adoption of digital and remote-working that has changed the face of business.”

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