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Evening Post has stirred up 'reputational problems', council officer claims...

Bristol's Cycling City status has an image problem – and it's all the fault of the local paper.

That's the view of a Bristol City Council officer's report to the city's audit committee, in which they admit targets to double the number of people on bikes might not be met by the £23million project's 2011 deadline.

Although the council has been criticised by the public, cyclists and funders Cycle England for not delivering quickly enough, it appears to think the root of the problem lies elsewhere.

Under "key issues and problems", the report states: "Stakeholder engagement has not been a smooth process and this has contributed to the continued reputational problems for the project, with the Bristol Evening Post in particular being hostile."

A council spokeswoman was quick to deny the allegation against the Post was officially sanctioned. Kate Hartas said: "The comment was the individual personal view of an officer which should have been removed from a professional report.

"We apologise for this error.

"One of our identified risks is that cycling may not be doubled by the exact finish date. This is an identifed risk, not an identified fact.

"But in any case, the project is pulling out all the stops, and even if the exact target is missed slightly, it is not far beyond that date that the target will be achieved and more."

But according to the audit committee report, the "reputational problem" is down to the Evening Post.

The scheme started in October 2008 and is due to be completed by next March.

This gives the council just over a year to deliver on the rest of the project's promises, but even council officers admit this may not happen.

Under "risk management", the report states that key risks include: "Not achieving targets to double cycling in Bristol due to extremely short timescale of the project."

So far the council has spent £2.2m of the £8.2m of Cycling England cash that goes to Bristol, with another £3.5m to be spent by the end of the financial year.

If the council does not spend the rest of that money by next March, it will have to be returned.

The money the council put up for the scheme includes £8.2m worth of cycling related projects that are already under way.

Councillor Jon Rogers, member for transport and sustainability, said: "The Evening Post is a huge and vital part of this debate. It is ridiculous to get defensive about criticism. Identifying public concerns and responding to them is our core business."

According to the Post, the authority has refused to identify the author of the report.