Government announces the Cycle to Work Guarantee
Cycle to Work tax relief here to stay, and more besides
Lord Adonis announced today the creation of the Cycle to Work Guarantee scheme which challenges employers to be more cycle friendly in their approach to office life. The Guarantee scheme looks to build upon the success of the Cycle to Work initiative which allows company employees to get a bike through their employer, saving on tax and National Insurance.
“If proper facilities were more widely available, I believe far more people would cycle to work", said Adonis. "At present only 3 per cent do so. We could double or treble that figure with proper bike storage and changing facilities and safe cycle routes - and that’s my aim.
“For employees, cycling is a great way to save money while getting fit. And for all of us, it will cut rush hour congestion and reduce carbon emissions."
The health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: "We can't expect people to cycle to work if they can't have a shower or store their bike safely when they get there – that's why we need a cycle-to-work guarantee from employers. Lots of NHS organisations have already signed up and are helping their staff cycle their way to better health. I'm pleased they are leading by example and I hope it will become standard practice across the NHS."
The scheme is set to focus on the following key areas:
- Secure, safe, and accessible bike parking facilities for all staff who want them;
- Good quality changing and locker facilities for all staff who want them;
- Offset the cost of cycling equipment and save on the tax through the ‘Cycle to Work scheme’;
- Bike repair for cyclists on or near site;
- Training, reward and incentive programmes to achieve targets for more cycling.
As such it goes a lot further than the current initiative, which is only concerned with the bikes themselves and doesn't really look at the wider picture of provision. Needless to say, it would seem that this announcement is a pat on the back for cycling in general, and the current scheme, which has been a big success, in particular. It also focuses the scheme on the workplace with talk of facilities and incentives: until now, though a bike on the scheme was nominally for work there was no requirement for any proof that it actually got used for commuting.
Exactly what help employers will receive to meet the requirements of the Guarantee isn't clear yet, and we'll report on them when we know. Clearly to be meaningful the Guarantee will need to be backed up with some sort of grant framework, it's not enough simpliy to say that companies should adhere to the rules without some sort of carrot to lure people out of their cars. Thus far there's no public money behind the scheme.
Government investment in getting people to cycle to work thus far has been pretty limited; okay the Cycle to Work initiative costs them in tax and NI but it's a fairly easy and cheap win, and the burden of the paperwork falls on the comanies. Elsewhere in Europe things seem to be much more straightforward. Italy's subsidised bike scheme is precisely that: there's no complicated hire agreements or PAYE calculations to sign, it's simply a big pot of money that'll chuck some your way when you buy a new bike. No wonder when the latest funding went live thatt 2,000 bikes flew off the shelves in 2 hours. 90,000 bikes are expected to be sold; so far they've put €11.4m up to fund the subsidies. The government's entire budget for cycling over the next three years is £140m, enough for about four miles of motorway.
We spoke to Richard Grigsby at our friendly local Cycle to Work provider Cyclescheme, and he was understandably upbeat about the news. "The Cycle to Work Guarantee is a practical package that takes the Government’s cycle to work programme forward in a sustainable and achievable way", he said. "Cyclescheme is superbly positioned, with its network of independent bike dealers and industry contacts, to help employers take part in the Cycle to Work Guarantee and can provide solutions to every aspect of this exciting new initiative."
The Confederation of Britis Industry welcomed the announcement too. Director General, Richard Lambert, said, “An estimated one in two journeys cover less than five miles so there is huge opportunity for increasing cycle use. This initiative shows how a number of small steps by employers can encourage employees to cycle to work.
"By reducing the strain on road networks and car-parking facilities, increased cycling benefits both individuals and the wider economy. Cycling also reduces carbon emissions and can be an important part of an employer’s corporate social responsibility objectives.”