Sustrans slams "disastrous budget," CTC says government should encourage bike use

Budget "delivered from behind the steering wheel of a Ford Focus," says Sustrans

by Simon_MacMichael   March 24, 2011  

Palace Of Westminster At Night © Andrew Dunn.jpg

Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, has accused Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne of yesterday delivering “a disastrous budget which focuses on short term gains to get popular support.” While cutting fuel duty as a sop to motorists the Chancellor also cut tax relief for "biking breakfasts" one of the methods used by organisations to tempt new cycle commuters to give riding to work a try.

In an angry statement Sustrans went on to say that “his measures to reduce and limit the cost of fuel mean that once again we are incentivising people to use their cars while failing to offer alternatives that would provide a transport lifeline to poorer households without access to a car.”

There was no mention in the chancellor’s speech of the Cycle 2 Work scheme. No news hopefully means good news, with independent think-tank the Office for Tax Simplification, set up by the government last year, recently recommending that it be retained.

However, Sustrans maintains that the budget represented a blow to efforts to encourage people to switch from cars to more sustainable forms of travel.

“Mr Osborne has missed a golden opportunity to invest the £2bn from the oil companies in providing alternatives to car travel,” said Sustrans Police Advisor, Jason Torrance.

“People are now being encouraged to drive in a 1970s’ dream that could soon evaporate with a change in the price of oil.

“Sadly he has delivered the budget from behind the steering wheel of a Ford Focus and turned his back on an opportunity to provide alternatives to car use and much needed support to those suffering from the high cost of fuel.

“We do ourselves no favours by continuing to ignore the obvious – oil is a finite resource and will become unaffordable long before it finally dries up,” insisted Mr Torrance.

“Unless we invest in low carbon alternatives to car use we are facing a divide in society with the majority of people living in transport poverty,” he concluded.

National cyclists’ organisation CTC focused on plans to withdraw tax benefits for cycle to work breakfasts, as recommended in the Office for Tax Simplification report.

Campaigns director Roger Geffen told the trade website BikeBiz: “The Government is looking at withdrawing the tax-deductable Cycle to Work breakfast, and is entering a period of consultation.

“So on the one hand the Government has subsidised fuel for cars, but on the other it is looking to withdraw fuel for cyclists. Cycle to Work breakfasts were used by a local authorities and government departments, as well as a number of employers.

"This is a Government that has said it encourages people to cycle, but so far it has abolished Cycling England and now this – withdrawing an initiative they helps employers to encourage employees to cycle to work - it's usually very popular during Bike Week. 


"It's time the Government encouraged people to get cycling to work – and was seen to be doing so."
 

12 user comments

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Nice to see Sustans, at least, talking tough on this.

CTC sounds a bit weak in comparison. "But what about our breakfasts? How will we fuel our vehicular cycling?"

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [586 posts]
24th March 2011 - 10:26

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Well what did you really expect?
I have seen no real government commitment to alternative transport strategies .... and that's what it needs (not just bikes!)
Cycle 2 Work may have survived but It doesn't help everybody. My company refuse to run the scheme and I needed it when I broke my frame this year (probably due to the appalling road conditions).
As for the pothole money ... well is it enough? and how long will the repairs last... on my commute there are countless holes that have been "repaired" several times. Only where the complete road surface has been replaced have the repairs held together, but I guess the councils are so budget focused that they are not interested in a long term fix just cheap sticking plasters.

Sorry Rant over Wink

posted by GrimpeurChris [59 posts]
24th March 2011 - 11:35

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PJ McNally wrote:
Nice to see Sustans, at least, talking tough on this.

CTC sounds a bit weak in comparison. "But what about our breakfasts? How will we fuel our vehicular cycling?"

Thing is I think Sustran's line will alienate pretty much everyone who isn't already a cyclist, and those are the people they need to engage with.

posted by Chuck [365 posts]
24th March 2011 - 12:43

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That sustrans statement is just as bad as the any political one!

“Sadly he has delivered the budget from behind the steering wheel of a Ford Focus and turned his back on an opportunity to provide alternatives to car use and much needed support to those suffering from the high cost of fuel

er.. im yet to find a sustrans built route (No, not just one they stuck a signpost on!) that provides a suitable alternative for joe public to give up a car.

“a disastrous budget which focuses on short term gains to get popular support.”

And your press release, structured to include the usual witty litte retorts and stating the bleeding obvious, is in no way an attempt to just get publicity the various cycling websites is it?

Honestly, I like sustrans and support what they do but sometimes they should think before they speak.

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posted by STATO [411 posts]
24th March 2011 - 13:35

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No worries. Now that the oil companies are taxed, they will increase the price of the oil. Add to that the new war in the Middle East. We shouldn't fret. Wait and see.

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

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posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
24th March 2011 - 14:11

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So much for the "greenest ever government" Angry That phrase, coming from a Tory, was obviously meant to be a joke.

Caroline Lucas's perspective in the Grauniad:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/24/george-osborne-budget-...

My car-dependent colleagues are all relieved to be saving 1p/litre but it's proper head-in-sand stuff. Nobody ever discusses changing driving habits, car-sharing, reducing journey numbers or even ways to economise on personal spending in other areas.

Bearing in mind the traffic levels around Shrewsbury I'd say current fuel prices have had zero effect on driving behaviour or numbers. The vast majority of cars are single occupant, too many drivers do the sharp accelerate-heavy braking thing so it's obviously not hurting yet. It should be £2/litre. And I don't think people in rural areas deserve any kind of discount.

Before any sh*tkickers and country bumpkins moan, I've been there too - I spent most of my life in a rural backwater a good way from civilisation and work in the agricultural sector for my sins. Farmers get enough grants, benefits and tax-exempt perks for their businesses and their (mostly swanky) vehicles that ruin the roads and verges. If food producers want to make a living they need to fight for better prices, not more handouts.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1941 posts]
24th March 2011 - 14:12

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God help the government that is finally the one to say "Sorry but you're going to have to stop driving your car so much".

At the moment, fuel prices are creeping up so it's like the 'boiling frog'* effect - as long as the increase in pain is gradual they (we) will keep putting up with it. I suspect the only way we'll get a genuine change to the situation is with a sudden 'step change' causing crisis - like, for example, an extended war in the mid east that forces up prices or dramatically reduces supply... oh wait.

* I've never boiled a frog so this may well be a myth.

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posted by joemmo [792 posts]
24th March 2011 - 14:28

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GrimpeurChris wrote:
Well what did you really expect?

As for the pothole money ... well is it enough? and how long will the repairs last... on my commute there are countless holes that have been "repaired" several times

I totally agree

The one thing that happened last year to make my commute safer was the resurfacing of the high speed roundabout near Wellington on the A38. It used to be like a ploughed field and dangerous to cycle across. Now it is wonderful and smooth.

The council fix potholes reported on "fill that hole" pretty quick but often they open up again.

The budget 1p off fuel duty is meaningless except as a paper thin political gesture. They don't want more fuel protests.

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posted by vorsprung [290 posts]
24th March 2011 - 17:36

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vorsprung wrote:
The council patch potholes reported on "fill that hole" pretty quick but often they open up again.

Fixed that for you Wink Too often they do a rush job and it starts breaking up again before long.

Shropshire council's contractors have been busy over the last few weeks but most of the ones I've noticed appear to have a bit of material thrown in the hole, squashed down and that's all. There is no overbanding material tar sealant at the edges and sometimes they're not even flush with the road surface. Any exposed edges will be worn by heavy vehicles and ripe for frost damage.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1941 posts]
24th March 2011 - 17:52

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The stuff about changing the planning permission process to be "pro-jobs" (i.e. pro-business) was almost as bad. And it shouldn't have been included in the budget, as if money were the only consideration - although that was basically what they were saying. Presumption of approval is supposed to be only for "sustainable projects", but if you don't thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of a project then how can you know it will be sustainable? There will be a lot of greenwashing, probably including slapping a few Sheffield stands outside the front of new office buildings located miles from anywhere, with huge car parks, and no changing rooms for any cyclists who do brave the increasingly congested roads. But it might make it a bit easier for Sustrans to build whatever project they can afford, so they probably didn't complain about that bit.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
24th March 2011 - 19:45

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The planning permission stuff isn't really a surprise, the people who would be properly examining applications on a sustainability basis are among the Local Authority teams being hardest hit by the cuts (for hardest hit please read "loosing their jobs, incomes and heading for benefits increasing welfare expenditure").

The penny of fuel duty is neither here nor there but the failure to implement planned increases is actually a major step backwards in sustainability terms.

I would like to say to those who voted this lot into power "we told you so"

The only thing green about this government is the colour you get by mixing Tory blue and LibDem yellow.

Shay

posted by shay cycles [220 posts]
24th March 2011 - 22:48

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I agree with Chuck - it's no good bashing fellow citizens with more sticks/tax... a few penny's on the price of petrol is not going to change the behavior of many.

Cycling should be a positive lifestyle choice, not a retreat from taxation.

Chuck wrote:
PJ McNally wrote:
Nice to see Sustans, at least, talking tough on this.

CTC sounds a bit weak in comparison. "But what about our breakfasts? How will we fuel our vehicular cycling?"

Thing is I think Sustran's line will alienate pretty much everyone who isn't already a cyclist, and those are the people they need to engage with.

posted by IanPerry [7 posts]
26th March 2011 - 23:36

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