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"Everyday transport" at risk in government spending review, say transport groups

20 August 2015

"Everyday transport" - local roads and pavements, bus services, cycling and walking - is at risk of very large government budget cuts, according to transport groups. In a letter to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the groups note that his department’s unprotected budget faces a cut of 25-40 per cent in the Chancellor's spending review. Since major investment programmes for roads and railways are ring-fenced, this means cuts are expected to fall disproportionately on local transport.

The letter warns that as a result local roads, which already have a £8.6bn backlog in funding for essential maintenance work, are likely to fall further into disrepair, local bus services will see further reductions in services and increases in fares, and existing government commitments to encourage more cycling and walking will be impossible to meet.

The groups point out that these cuts would have hugely damaging economic and social consequences, for example by reducing access to jobs for unemployed people, increasing isolation among those reliant on buses, undermining regeneration programmes and discouraging people from making active and more healthy travel choices.

They want to see the government protect and enhance everyday transport, through

  • smarter spending such as creating efficient cross-government funding programmes,
  • rebalancing capital and revenue funding, and
  • reviewing major transport programmes, especially the Road Investment Strategy.

 Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said:

 "Our analysis shows that the Spending Review risks hitting very hard the everyday transport that people and communities rely on, while programmes like big road building schemes will escape unscathed. We hope the Transport Secretary will ensure that the Review has a better balance between the major capital programmes and the funding for this everyday transport"

Jon Lamonte, Chair of pteg (the Passenger Transport Executive Group) and Chief Executive of Transport for Greater Manchester, said:

"The city-regions need to see long term sustained investment in local transport, including on buses and road maintenance. Cuts in these budgets will undermine the economic health of the major cities and our programmes for cutting unemployment and regenerating our economies."

Jason Torrance, Policy and Partnerships Director, Sustrans, said:

"The government has recognised that increasing cycling and walking is vital to tackling Britain's physical inactivity crisis. Yet the Spending Review risks strangling Britain's cycling revolution at birth by denying it the consistent, long-term funding that would make cycling and walking a realistic option for people’s everyday local journeys."

Ralph Smyth, Transport Manager, Barrister at Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:

“Investment in the ‘last mile’ of transport networks is essential, particularly in rural areas, if the benefits of national upgrades are to reach our homes and businesses. Cutting back investment in safe routes to stations or maintenance of local roads is as foolish as failing to upgrade the final leg of our broadband connections.”

Emily Humphreys, Director of Policy & Communications at Living Streets, said:

“Without a commitment to funding everyday walking, the dismally low levels of physical activity among both children and adults will be almost impossible to improve. We must not start the countdown on a public health time bomb by failing to maintain streets fit for walking.”

The groups plan to push their case in responses to the Treasury’s consultation on the Spending Review, which closes on 4 September, and to MPs when Parliament returns in the autumn.


Notes to editors

1.       The letter is attached below. For further information please contact:

  • Campaign for Better Transport: Richard Watkins on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773 468 or Stephen Joseph on 0207 566 6481/ 07939 584790. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).
  • Campaign to Protect Rural England: Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2819. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations.
  • Living Streets: Tanya Braun on 020 7377 4900, or Emily Humphreys, Director of Policy and Communications on 020 7456 9792. Living Streets is the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. We work to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets where people want to walk.
  • Pteg: Jonathan Bray on 0113 251 7445 / 0781 804 1485. Pteg (Passenger Transport Executive Group) brings together and promotes the interests of the six strategic transport bodies serving over 11 million people in the largest city regions outside London. We are also a wider professional network for Britain's largest urban transport authorities.
  • Sustrans: press office on 0207 7807 231, or Jason Torrance on 07826 851054. Sustrans is a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. Sustrans works with families, communities, policy - makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in.

2.        The Government‘s Spending Review will set budgets for public spending for this Parliament up to 2020, with the aim of making £20bn savings: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil.... Some areas like the NHS and international development are protected from cuts. The others (the “unprotected departments”), including the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government, have been asked to model cuts of 25% and 40% in their “Resource” budgets – capital spending is protected. The Government has invited representations on the Spending Review by 4 September; the Review itself is to be published on 25 November.

3.       Under the Railways Act 2005 and the Infrastructure Act 2015, Government funding for railway and road investment is set in 5 year plans, regulated by the Office of Road and Rail. Longer term funding is also committed to Transport for London’s capital programme. Rail franchises also have long term finance commitments attached.

4.        By contrast, local transport spending is mostly unprotected and local authorities have no legal duty or long term budget for most of it. Budgets under threat include:

  • local road maintenance funding;
  • Bus Service Operators Grant, which funds bus services;
  • the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which has funded many local transport projects;
  • the Cycling city ambition grants;
  • Bikeability (the successor to the Cycling Proficiency Test);
  • the Transport for London grant;
  • the Integrated Transport Block Grant for local transport schemes.

In addition, cuts in Revenue Support Grants to local authorities from the Department of Communities and Local Government will result in further cuts to transport services, such as maintenance of local roads and pavements and bus services, because councils have fewer legal duties here than in other areas of council spending like education and social services.

5.       The Government is now legally required to produce a Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy for England, and has targets to double cycling in ten years and to increase journeys to school on foot to 55%. The commencement order for this strategy was published last month, but there is no committed funding for this strategy as yet.