Updated: Councils failing to promote sustainable travel

9th August 2011

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  • Local government ,
  • Stakeholder engagement ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Central government



Local authorities are not investing the necessary funds to encourage residents to cut carbon emissions by taking more journeys by foot or bike, warns Friends of the Earth (FoE).

In a new joint report with the cycling charity Sustrans, FoE claims that delivering sustainable transport options is not a priority for many councils, with central government funding not making it to projects that can provide tangible changes in behaviour.

Between 2004–2009, a number of towns including Peterborough and Worcester trialled various “smarter travel choice” (STC) programmes to enable people to better plan journeys and increase the number completed by foot, bike and public transport.

The trials produced an overall 5–7% reduction in the distances travelled by car, and resulted in David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), advising that the government implement a phased national roll out of STC schemes.

However, according to its analysis of local authorities’ applications for local transport plan funding up until 2015, the amount of cash being dedicated by councils to STC projects equates to approximately 70p per person, far below the £5.65 invested in the successful pilots.

The report blames the failure of government to ring-fence such funding, citing examples of councils transferring money that could be used for STC projects to highway maintenance budgets and to cover bus service subsidies.

The findings follow the government’s launch of a Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) in January, offering local authorities an additional £560 million of grants to encourage sustainable transport on top of what is available for local transport plans. While FoE is positive about the LSTF it warns the fund will not bring the level of investment up to what is needed.

“Even added to what is on average being spent on STCs it is not enough, to match the level of spend on STCs in the demonstration towns.

“The LSTF, if distributed by population rather than the bidding process, would provide £2.08 per capita per year for STC’s. With most local transport plans having no or low levels of spending on these measures, total spending on STCs will fall a long way short of what's necessary,” states the report.

FoE transport campaigner Richard Dyer, in publishing the report, warned: “The government at all levels must ensure that funding provided for sustainable travel is at least that in the pilot project towns.”

An LGA spokesman responded to the report saying that the severity of cuts to council budgets means that savings are having to be made across the board.

"Local government is having to cover a funding shortfall of around £6.5bn in this financial year and inevitably councils face extremely tough decisions on which services to save and which to cut."


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