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:
|Year||Total claimed||Actual spent||Carried over|
|2010/11||£116m + boroughs||£100m + boroughs||£16m|
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.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.