Making it easier for people to travel healthy needs to be a priority of the Government for the long-term health of our society and economy – in order to fight climate change, rising levels of congestion, toxic air, inactivity and social isolation.
The 2020 Budget, announced yesterday, allocated £27 billion for main roads and over £1 billion from the Transforming Cities Fund, to deliver a range of walking and cycling schemes by 2022-23.
It did not, however, commit to any new funding for active travel, says Xavier Brice, Sustrans CEO, despite the Government signalling in the past that it understands the role walking and cycling has to play in tackling these crises.
“Research shows that at least £6 billion is needed to meet the Government’s targets of doubling cycling and increasing walking by 2025,” Brice says.
“Many local authorities have comprehensive plans for walking and cycling that are ready to be delivered. But clarification and certainty on dedicated long-term funding are needed as soon as possible for them to deliver these plans, fulfil their potential and meet the Government’s own targets.
“The National Infrastructure Strategy and Spending Review will be the opportunity to make this happen. We will continue to make the case for the significant and long-term funding needed in walking and cycling to transform our communities and create happier lives and healthier places for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Cycling UK has said it is “hugely disappointed” that active travel has been “completely overlooked” in this year’s Budget.
“It’s beyond belief that the Chancellor has announced £1 billion will be spent on ‘green transport solutions’, without a single penny committed to cycling or walking in [yesterday’s] Budget, leaving English councils outside London with no earmarked money whatsoever to spend on their local cycling and walking network plans from the start of next month,” says chief executive Paul Tuohy.
“Instead, he has announced a staggering £27 billion road-building programme which will only serve to increase the climate, air pollution, congestion, and inactivity related public health crises threatening this country.”
“Next month, funding for active travel falls off a cliff, with no ring-fenced capital funding available to local authorities for cycling and walking,” Cycling UK’s head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore adds.
“The Government has asked them to produce local cycling and walking infrastructure plans (LCWIPS), but there’s little chance that anything will actually be built when the question of funding keeps getting kicked into the long grass.
“[Yesterday’s] Budget now sets the Government on a trajectory to fall even further behind on the delivery of its own targets for cycling and walking, targets it has admitted can’t be achieved without significantly increasing investment.
“When dealing with climate, air pollution, congestion, and inactivity related public health crises, it’s immediate action that’s needed, not jam tomorrow. Substantial investment to enable more people to walk and cycle, empower choice, and reduce car dependency particularly for short journeys, is one of the quickest, most cost-effective and obvious solutions to all of these crises, but tackling them through active travel has been ignored in this budget.”
Elsewhere in the Budget, it was announced that tens of thousands of England’s retail, leisure and hospitality firms will not pay any business rates in the coming year.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said companies with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday, as part of measures to support the UK economy in face of coronavirus concerns.