It’s raining budgets in January. After Gloucestershire’s budget, we now have the Cheltenham (closes 26 Jan) and Tewkesbury (closes 31 Jan) budget to look at.
We are a ‘two tier’ local authority, where local government functions are split between Gloucestershire County Council, and a number of district and borough councils (including Cheltenham Borough Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council.)
The county council makes the majority of important decisions that impact cycling because it is responsible for all roads, right down to a local street in Cheltenham, or a speed cushion in Tewkesbury.
However, our borough councils also have some opportunities for positive change, for example through planning, parks and cycle routes that run away from the highway network. They also have powers that influence how likely people are to drive, for example through car park charges (on street parking is Gloucestershire county council’s responsibility) and how their planning guidance influences new developments.
We’ve therefore taken a look at their budget consultations to see if there is anything we think is relevant to cycling that you might want to comment on.
Cheltenham Borough Council (Closes 26 January)
Our observations are;
- We commend the council for revising down the income it assumes it will receive from car parking, so that it is less dependent on private motor vehicle trips. Many councils have their hands tied by being dependent on car parking charges, so we want to recognise the positive step and flexibility that this will give Cheltenham moving forwards.
- We look forward to the publication of the council’s £10 million climate change strategy, and would encourage the council to include significant opportunities for cycling within this.
- We are pleased to see the council decrease the allowances it offers to staff who use private motor cars rather than greener modes of transport. We hope there will be opportunities for the campaign to support council staff wanting to discover the benefits of cycling in Cheltenham.
- There is still a significant amount of money allocated to car parking. We would like to see a separate budget line created to enhance and increase the amount of cycle parking in Cheltenham, particularly around local economic centres, to meet the rising demand.
- With no parallel routes in development, the Honeybourne line looks set to remain a crucial link for active travel in the short to medium term. It is already over capacity, and there are growing maintenance challenges. Unlike the highway network, this off road link is the responsibility of Cheltenham Borough Council, and we believe that a separate budget line is now needed to ensure there is long term planning for its expansion and maintenance.
- We also see a number of other barriers for cycling access within land owned by Cheltenham Borough Council, and maintenance challenges on a number of cycle routes through these areas, as well as much needed off route routes through their land. We believe this merits prioritisation within the budget to ensure that Cheltenham takes the opportunities it does have to increase cycling locally.
- We note the Parks and Gardens service have £40,800 for new vehicles. We’d like to dare them to try buying one less motor vehicle and buy a couple of cargo bikes instead with that money. They would have less environmental impact and cause less damage, whilst being flexible to access a wider range of areas.
Tewkesbury Borough Council (Closes 31 January)
We have been unable to find a similar level of detail in the Tewkesbury Borough Council budget consultation, which is available here, so cannot make detailed comments.
However, the consultation does allow you to answer questions on some relevant areas;
- Which services are most and least important to you, including parks and open spaces, and an ‘other’ option where you can highlight how important you feel investment in cycle routes on borough owned land is.
- The survey asks where you would be happy to see increases in charges for council services, including car parking charges. Increasing car parking charges is a proven intervention to discourage unnecessary private motor vehicle trips, and so this is an opportunity for you to show that cheap car parking isn’t supported by everyone in Tewkesbury.
We’d encourage everyone who wants to encouraged cycling in our area to have their say. Don’t forget you can also speak to your local councillor to find out more, or to tell them what you think.