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."
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.