Councillors cancel £200K project; is this the sign of things to come?

Councillors in Hartlepool have axed plans for new cycle lanes after the council was forced to find £259,000 savings from its transport budget.

The council’s transport team had hoped to spend £200,000 on new cycles lanes and improved signage across the town but the squeeze on public spending has forced them to reconsider.

The Hartlepool Mail reports that Labour councillor Peter Jackson approved the cuts. He said it was a "very difficult" decision to take, but stressed that road maintenance and school safety schemes were the priority.

The £259,000 equates to 11 per cent of the overall transport budget for this year.

Alastair Smith, the council's assistant director of transportation and engineering, said: "In order to achieve the saving of £259,000 there are two main options: reduce the budgets of all schemes by 11 per cent or recover the cost from one or more individual schemes."

Councillor Jackson said he didn't think it was fair to have an 11 per cent cut across the board. He said: "It is a very difficult decision to make and I am sure that there will be more to come with the reductions this Government is going to bring. The bulk of the reductions is coming from the cycling scheme.”

The public sector spending squeeze is now firmly on – and will only intensify after the Spending Review in October. So does cycling represent an easy target – and is it taking more than its share of cuts?

Not so far, according to Andy Wistow, Sustrans Nations and Regions Director. He said, "We know that local authorities are reviewing budgets and looking at potential cuts but as yet there is no sign that walking and cycling initiatives are being targeted any more than any other transport initiatives.

“We continue to work with local authorities to show the value of funding more sustainable transport initiatives – which not only make good financial sense but also have wider environment and health benefits for local communities."

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc).