How much are local authorities spending on cycling and walking?

Cycling UK has released data revealing a variation in active travel spending by local authorities across the nation, from £34 a year per head of population to just 20p, ahead of 143 councils in England holding elections tomorrow.

The figures, obtained by the national cycling charity through Freedom of Information requests, detail spending on active travel schemes from both core funding and one-off bids and grants. Not every local authority has responsibility for highways, and with that control of active travel spending, but to
date, 59 of those who do have provided full or partial information.

Although the requests covered the previous four financial years, Cycling UK said it focused on the figures from 2020-21 as the data is more complete for this year.

In 2020-21, the average spend across the councils that responded was £7.65 per head, of which £2.58 was from core funding. However, five local authorities (Kingston upon Thames, Salford, Waltham Forest, Stockport and Leicester City) spent or estimated spending more than £20 per head, while three (Redcar and Cleveland, Telford and Wrekin, and Hillingdon) reported figures of less than £1 per head.

Over the whole four-year period, four local authorities (Bradford, Bromley, Coventry and Hillingdon) reported spending none of their core funding on active travel, while only one (Sutton) said it had not received any grants.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “Spending money on cycling and walking is not about party politics, it is about improving quality of life for everyone. If you look at who controls the four councils that devoted most core funding to active travel, you find all three main political parties represented.

“What these figures show is that while some councils are doing a good job of investing in active travel schemes, both from their own funds and through seeking grants, other parts of the country risk being left behind. We need more equality in active travel, which is why our local election manifesto asks every local authority in England to move up the gears and invest more in cycling and walking.”

Cycling UK is asking people in regions where elections are taking place tomorrow to let their candidate know they want them to pledge to support higher investment in active travel, using an online action.

“We have seen our active travel manifesto asks being reflected in parties’ own manifestos ahead of the elections in both Scotland and Wales,” Dollimore added, “so it is important that the message gets through in England too.”

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