Yesterday saw the announcement of details for the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund for England.
The top headline from this announcement was the £560m being put aside for sustainable transport projects for the next four years. The money will be used to encourage greater use of public transport, walking and cycling over the use of the car.
Money will be distributed to local authorities to hand out to projects they deem fit but there will be a bidding process for the funds by local authorities to the Department of Transport. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own funding arrangements in line with their devolved government status.
Funding for cycling
In terms of cycling, funding for Bikeability, the national cycle proficiency training programme, has been ring fenced with £11m for 2011-12 and the government has guaranteed funding for Bikeability for the full term of this parliament to 2015.
Other national cycling projects will also be guaranteed funding from the larger £560m kitty, but for 2011-12 only. There will be £13m for Links to Schools, Bike Club and walking to school initiatives and £1m for the Transport Direct cycle journey planner.
No comeback for Cycling England
But there appears to be no comeback for Cycling England, which was one of the quangoes abolished by the coalition government last year, despite only costing £300,000 to run.
Local transport minister Norman Baker told the Financial Times that the best way to have accountability for sustainable transport projects was to make sure that there wasn’t an arm’s length body looking after funding. He argued this placed decision-making at a distance from ministers and thus gave the government an excuse to disown decisions if wrong ones were made.
Cycling England was responsible for an annual £60m budget for cycling specific projects but now such projects will have to compete with other alternative modes of transport at local authority level. This where politics is bound to play a part and cycling could be the loser.