Leeds vetoes proposal to spend less on council cars, more on cycling

Car-centric thinking lingers in Motorway City of the 70s

by John Stevenson   February 28, 2014  

Leeds Headrow and Town Hall (credit Welcome to Yorkshire www.yorkshire.com)

Leeds City Council has voted down a proposal to spend less on milage allowances for council staff cars and more on cycling infrastructure.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, opposition Liberal Democrat councillors suggested the council could save £420,000 per year by reducing the petrol allowance for higher-powered vehicles from 65p per mile to the standard 45p set by HMRC.

But at a budget-setting meeting this week, councillors of the Motorway City of the 70s voted down the proposal.

Leeds hosts the Tour de France Grand Départ on July 5, but campaigners have questioned whether the event will raise the profile of everyday cycling. They say that in a city in which cycling accounts for just an estimated half a percent of journeys, hosting the Tour will simply cement the idea that cycling is a sport for the very fit, and not a feasible way of getting around.

Stewart Galton, Liberal Democrat groups leader on the council, said it was time for the council to “put its money where its mouth is” when it comes to its ‘cycling city’ ambitions, and to “seize the opportunity presented by the Tour de France to improve cycling in Leeds and get more people cycling”.

He said: “With the Tour de France coming to Leeds, 2014 is the best opportunity we’ll ever have to get more people cycling in the city. But the council seems unable to adopt an approach that doesn’t prioritise motorists above other road users.”

Leeds is planning a ‘super cycleway’ to connect with neighbouring Bradford, but campaigners say cycling provision is on the whole woeful, and diverting money from subsidising council workers’ use of gas-guzzlers into cycling infrastructure would be a step in the right direction.

Lizzie Reather, chair of the Leeds Cycling Campaign, said that Leeds is generally still “anti-cycling”.

“Cycling in Leeds is absolutely not safe and a lot more could be done,” she told the Evening Post.

“The cycle superhighway is really good but it’s really just one road. What are they going to do about the rest of the city?”

She said the savings on higher level petrol claims could be used sensibly to realign roads when routine maintenance work is being done. She added: “The council should not be spending public money unnecessarily encouraging car use by its staff which is both unsustainable and economically costly.”

Council leader Keith Wakefield said the authority’s “commitment to cycling has never been stronger”.

On the issue of milage rates, he said: “Changes to mileage rates are one of a number of issues already under discussion with staff and trade unions. It is right that we allow those discussions to conclude before taking any decisions.”

13 user comments

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Riding through Leeds you can tell its heart really isn't in making cycling a priority. Roads/junctions - cyclists are always an afterthought, and this compounds that. As my home town, I will be embarrassed if nothing changes fundamentally before July. Angry

YorkshireMike's picture

posted by YorkshireMike [70 posts]
28th February 2014 - 12:05

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It is an absolute disgrace that they are spending taxpayers' money on 65p per mile allowances for motoring when as a private businessman the maximum allowed is 45p.

posted by drfabulous0 [293 posts]
28th February 2014 - 12:33

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Ahh more councillors mumbling something about the peasants eating cake.

More to the point howcome they get 65p a mile, some of us are restricted to 27p regardless of engine size.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [289 posts]
28th February 2014 - 12:38

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Sickening. Arrogant fat cats.

posted by timothypulleyn [5 posts]
28th February 2014 - 12:54

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It's a disgrace that they're getting anything. They should have pool cars for official business. Little super economic ones... not big swanky BMWs and Audis... Ideally, they should also have pool bicycles for short journeys.

Make them eat their own dogfood in IT terms... They'd soon get the cycling infrastructure sorted out if they actually had to use it themselves.

Apparently we're in austerity measures and supposed to be cutting our carbon footprint as well, you wouldn't think so the way they spend other people's money on themselves and burn petrol/diesel while doing it...

posted by Paul_C [167 posts]
28th February 2014 - 13:02

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Councilors trying to avoid a smaller lining in their pockets rather than improving the health, wellbeing & safety of those who live in the city that they are supposed to represent. Sad but only too typical.

They Made Me Do It!

posted by Oscarzero [18 posts]
28th February 2014 - 13:03

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65p a mile? Alright for some, it seems.

posted by dp24 [186 posts]
28th February 2014 - 13:59

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Pool bicycles would be an ideal way for council staff and councillors to get around - not just because it's cheap and very quick, but because riding through town at 10 - 20 mph with on's eyes wide open and no pesky A-frames in the way is a great way to stay connected with local realities and aware of all new developments.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
28th February 2014 - 14:13

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Council leader Keith Wakefield said the authority’s “commitment to cycling has never been stronger”.

I believe the correct term is 'LOL'.

posted by hoski [64 posts]
28th February 2014 - 14:52

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“commitment to cycling has never been stronger”.

Aspiring to do very little, is still very little.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [154 posts]
28th February 2014 - 15:17

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It's worth remembering that the 45p figure is set by HM Revenue. Anything over this could be considered a benefit in kind, and as such could be considered taxable.

Of course as public servants I'm sure all council staff declare the amount of personal milage they claim to the taxman.

posted by qwerky [134 posts]
28th February 2014 - 15:18

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drfabulous0 wrote:
It is an absolute disgrace that they are spending taxpayers' money on 65p per mile allowances for motoring when as a private businessman the maximum allowed is 45p.

Not quite correct - 45p is the maximum amount per mile which HMRC will accept as an allowance which is not taxed as a benefit. 65p/mile would give rise to at least 20p/mile being taxed as a benefit on the claimant, or indeed arguably all of it could be - the rule is no that the first 45p is not taxed, rather than no argument will be made to tax any of it as long as it doesn't exceed 45p.

posted by Paul M [308 posts]
28th February 2014 - 17:53

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The lack of commitment here is very sad. As a city, Leeds is crying out for better use of bikes as commuter transport and it really wouldn't be that difficult given the number of schemes which could be taken 'off the shelf'. Councillors could even go and visit some of these schemes in other towns to ensure they max out on their 65ppm Wink

The most likely long term outcome of Le Grand Departe in Leeds is very little, other than businesses reflecting on the short term big money they made during the Event and looking for the next cash cow to come along.


posted by msfergus [17 posts]
1st March 2014 - 10:26

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