Government falls behind on £2 billion cycling target as budget cut by 15 per cent

To meet its own target, the government needs to increase cycling funding but has instead cut the money by 15 per cent 

(Image credit: In Pictures via Getty Images)

The government is “failing to meet its own commitments” campaigners have said as funding for cycling will fall next year.

On Wednesday (November 26), chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his Spending Review how much money the government will spend on public services in the coming financial year, including pay rises for NHS workers and £1.7 billion for local roads.

But the announcement was a disappointment for cycling campaigners, as the budget for cycling and walking will be cut by 15 per cent in 2021/22. 

Head of campaigns at charity Cycling UK Duncan Dollimore said: “The government’s vision and stated ambition for active travel are impressive, but this spending review takes us backwards when it comes to delivery.

The £257 million set aside for active travel next year is less than one per cent of the £27.4 billion roads budget the Government remains stubbornly wedded to. 

“Reducing next year’s funding by around £45 million makes the delivery of the Government’s own targets to increase levels of cycling and walking almost impossible, without the radical shift in transport spending priorities required to decarbonise transport.” 

Back in May, the government promised to spend £2bn on active travel between 2020 and 2025, as prime minister Boris Johnson said he wants to bring in a “golden age of cycling.”

To meet that target, the government would need to spend on average £400 million a year - in 2020 a total of £300m was spent on cycling and walking. 

This means that a spending increase was needed for the next financial year if the government planned to stay on track, but instead the spending will fall 15 per cent from £300million in 2020/21 to £256m in 2021/22.

The government will now need to spend £1.5bn in the remaining three years of this parliament to meet its own target, the equivalent of around double the current investment, or £500m a year.  

Cycling UK’s campaigners manager Keir Gallagher said the Spending Review is “completely at odds with the government decarbonisation strategy” and that it is “failing to meet it its own commitments.” 

This year the government has introduced a number of welcome measures to get more people on bikes through the coronavirus pandemic, including the hugely popular £50 repair voucher scheme and released millions for councils to spend on cycle lanes.  

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CEO of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, Xavier Brice said: “[The] Spending Review put aside a welcome £257m for walking and cycling in 2021/22 alongside more funding for local road maintenance.

"This can be used to create better places for walking and cycling and to connect communities to the things they need.

"It is a fraction of the £2 billion promised by the Government over this parliamentary term.

"And we look forward to the funding increasing over the coming years to help us reach net-zero, tackle physical inactivity, reduce air pollution and create more liveable towns and cities.”