Boris Johnson guilty of "massive underspend" on budget for cycling in London, claims Green Assembly Member

Darren Johnson says that money spent by mayor over past six years is £150 million less than that budgeted

by Simon_MacMichael   January 15, 2014  

London:cyclist in traffic (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been accused of presiding over "a massive underspend" on cycling in London. Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson, who raised similar concerns last year, claims that since 2008 there has been a £150 million shortfall between the £588 million allocated to cycling and actual expenditure. However, TfL surface transport manager Leon Daniels says the shortfall has been miscalculated.

At Mayor's Question Time yesterday, Darren Johnson quizzed the man whose surname he shares about discrepancies between those figures, obtained from a number of sources including Transport for London (TfL) and the mayor's own responses to previous questions put to him at City Hall.

During the current financial year, he says there will be a £38 million underspend, equivalent to just over a third of the £111 million budgeted. He has also drawn up figures for previous years:

TfL claimed underspending on cycling in London

Year Total claimed Actual spent Carried over
2008/09  £55m  £44.8m  £10m
2009/10  £111m  £57m  £54m
2010/11  £116m + boroughs  £100m + boroughs  £16m
2011/12  £94m  £82m  £12m
2012/13  £101m  £81m?  £20m
2013/14  £111m  £73m  £38m

According to Darren Johnson, "The information is sourced from a variety of MQT answers and correspondence with TfL. The 2012/13 figure is an estimate based upon TfL Board papers as the figures have not been forthcoming, despite repeated requests since last March."

Yesterday, he told the mayor: "I understand once more that TfL are forecasting a large underspend on cycling and I think again and again each year we have this problem where yourself and Andrew Gilligan [London's cycling champion, appointed by the mayor in 2013] announce some impressive figures for the cycling budget and then the reality is there's a massive underspend on that.

"At a time when we absolutely need investment to make our roads safer, all the public concern about those being killed and seriously injured, yet the published cycling budget bears very little resemblance to the money that's actually spent over the course of the year."

After outlining the figures for several of the years in question, he said: "You're announcing these very impressive figures and then not following it through with the investment that's actually needed."

"That's not right," countered the mayor. "Obviously there's movement between years and the money committed will be spent on cycling. We are pushing out a huge amount of money on cycling and improving safety in cycling.

"You're right to mention that's a big cause for public concern, perhaps I could remind you that the number of cycling deaths has fallen even though the number of cycling journeys has massively risen."

Opposition politicians, including the Green Party's Baroness Jones and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, who chairs the GLA's transport committee, have criticised the mayor over his record on cycling, with the former saying that despite his insistence that cycling is getting safer in London, saying that the evidence is that the opposite is the case.

The mayor told Darren Johnson "I share your impatience. I'm not minimising this point. I share your impatience. I know Andrew Gilligan and [TfL commissioner] Peter Hendy do as well, they want to get on with it as fast as anybody. You cannot just water-cannon money at projects and hope that they go right."

In a press release issued following their exchange, Darren Johnson said: “I am angry about the fact that people have been killed and seriously injured while money that should have been used to make roads safer has been left unspent.

"This £150m under-spend is more than the Transport for London budget for safer junctions over the next decade.

"Transport for London has had the time and the money to have made around 50 junctions safer during the last six years.

"That is a lot of pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries which could have been avoided if Transport for London had got on with it.”

“The Mayor needs to get a grip on TfL and ensure that they start creating the safer places to cycle that they are being given the money to do.

"Boris Johnson has some good plans for cycling, but unless the delivery improves he will be remembered as the Mayor who brought death and injury to London’s roads.”

But TfL says Darren Johnson is miscounting. Leon Daniels, Managing Director for Surface Transport at TfL said: "There is no cumulative underspend of £150m.  Any underspend from an individual year is rolled forward into the next year’s budget as part of the business planning process.  Therefore, this analysis overstates the total level of underspend by double and potentially even treble counting the same item.

"Our latest business plan, published in December 2013, retained the planned £913m investment in cycling over 2012/13 to 2021/22 in full. Any underspends are purely due to timing differences which occurred as detailed implementation plans were developed.  The level of expenditure into cycling during the next two years will increase significantly as the major new projects outlined in the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling progress from design to on-street delivery."

It's not the first time that Darren Johnson has taken the mayor to task over funding for cycling in the capital.

In a blog post published on road.cc in April last year, he said that he believed published figures for annual budgets for cycling spend included amounts carried over from previous years - money allocated but never spent.

He also raised concerns that the mayor's much-publicised announcement that he had nearly £1 billion to cycling over the remainder of the decade to help realise his '2020 Vision' deliberately underestimated the full amount that would be needed to realise that, in “the expectation that much of it won’t happen.”

 

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Well done Boris a real ambassador for cycling?????

posted by Rouboy [71 posts]
15th January 2014 - 17:52

17 Likes

Boris in lying slimy twat shocker...

posted by VeloPeo [221 posts]
15th January 2014 - 18:25

18 Likes

One simple question. Where has the money that's not been spent gone?

MikeOnABike's picture

posted by MikeOnABike [27 posts]
15th January 2014 - 18:48

18 Likes

I don't live in London, but if they haven't identified proper valuable projects, is it not better they roll it over rather than spend it on a load of shite?

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [618 posts]
15th January 2014 - 19:36

10 Likes

There is a long line of people with brilliant projects to spend the money on, sadly Boris never listens to people them.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [161 posts]
15th January 2014 - 23:16

11 Likes

Flying Scot wrote:
I don't live in London, but if they haven't identified proper valuable projects, is it not better they roll it over rather than spend it on a load of shite?

True, but how hard is it to figure out how to spend the money?

Mind you they probably got a discount on blue paint and hence the underspend.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1191 posts]
16th January 2014 - 9:24

17 Likes

Quote:
You cannot just water-cannon money at projects and hope that they go right.

He's doing it again the evil sadistic twat.

posted by farrell [1526 posts]
16th January 2014 - 10:18

9 Likes

"One simple question. Where has the money that's not been spent gone?"

As the table says "Rolled Over" it would suggest it goes into the next years total...which means there would actually be £38m available rather than the sum of all of the under-spends

posted by RedfishUK [58 posts]
16th January 2014 - 11:15

11 Likes

Quote:
"perhaps I could remind you that the number of cycling deaths has fallen even though the number of cycling journeys has massively risen."

Once again Boris throws a dead cat on the table...

posted by congokid [133 posts]
16th January 2014 - 12:25

8 Likes

MikeOnABike wrote:
One simple question. Where has the money that's not been spent gone?

Well Darren Johnson for TfL is absolutely right. The underspend has been double counted because it's been "rolled over" carried forward to the next year's budget and then any underspend in the following year is counted again. The report is based on financial illiteracy.

To make the example simple.

I have a weekly budget of £100
I spend £90
I roll over the £10 underspend to next week.
I now have a budget of £110.
I spend £90 again
This time I have underspent the budget by £20
I roll over the £20 underspend.

I have had a total of £200 to spend.
I have spent £180

Is the answer to the amount of

underspend £20?

or by double counting is it £10 + £20 = £30

Here's a clue. If it's a £30 then I must have had £210 to spend.
But I only had £200 so, where did the extra £10 come from?

Or, as you ask..where has the double counted extra £10 that never existed gone to?

Is the answer to how much I have over spen

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [673 posts]
16th January 2014 - 13:41

11 Likes

mrmo wrote:
Flying Scot wrote:
I don't live in London, but if they haven't identified proper valuable projects, is it not better they roll it over rather than spend it on a load of shite?

True, but how hard is it to figure out how to spend the money?

Mind you they probably got a discount on blue paint and hence the underspend.

It's not hard to spend money. It is hard to spend it properly ie according to the regs, workflow etc. And I am not saying that this has always been done or couldn't be done better. Just that government and management always looks a lot easier from the outside. You and I can look at something and say what we would do. But local authorities have to square the decision with all kinds of interested parties before they can even get a decision to do it. Like if there is already a local plan already agreed and budgeted for and scheduled and should you be digging and building just a year before that will be done anyway. Or what about the plans that utilities have to dig up the same road next year to replace water mains or similar. You put down a nice new bike path and they come a dig it right up and that's before speaking to works engineering schedulers about where that comes in their list of priorities and when it can be done.

Just saying that running a city like London is quite a complicated business and you just don't get to demand that a bike lane should be put in a certain place right now.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [673 posts]
16th January 2014 - 14:06

14 Likes

What a surprise, not.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2253 posts]
16th January 2014 - 22:22

10 Likes