Cambs missed out on more than £500,000 in active travel funds after ‘botched bid’ by mayor, Labour Party claims
- Credit: Archant
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has missed out on more than £500,000 in funds for active travel after a “botched bid” by the mayor, the county’s Labour Party claims.
In May the government made funding available for emergency active travel measures in response to the pandemic, with the stated intention to encourage walking and cycling as part of social distancing measures, while also fast-tracking plans for the longer-term.
The government indicated Cambridgeshire and Peterborough could receive £2,875,000 as part of the scheme. But government figures show the actual allocation was £2,366,679.
In a letter to local government leaders across the country in November, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said authorities received the money based on the “strength of their bids”.
The letter added that some areas, such as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, received less than originally indicated because their proposals in the bidding process were “less well aligned with the objectives of the fund than those of other authorities”.
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In the second tranche of funding, which made up the bulk of the total, Labour says the Combined Authority’s bid was awarded 75 per cent of the “indicative amount” it had expected to receive, “making it the worst performing Combined Authority in the country”.
Labour said: “Every other Combined Authority received at least 95 per cent of their expected cash, with Greater Manchester achieving 125 per cent”.
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Councillor Nik Johnson, Labour’s mayoral candidate, described the situation as “disappointing,” and said as a consequence the area “will miss out on a scheme which would encourage healthier lifestyles and safer cycling because of a lack of vision and passion for improved public health for all”.
Daniel Zeichner MP said: “This is highly disappointing. As a cycling city Cambridge should be scoring highly here. Making it easier for people to get about by bike and on foot is absolutely crucial to tackle congestion, deliver cleaner air and help people live healthier lives.”
A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority said: “In the summer, the area put forward a longlist of schemes that had a total cost well above the amount of money available.
“Several months later, the government changed the rules and emphasis of the scheme as well as the budget. Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council are now reviewing their proposals in the light of both those changes and will decide very soon which schemes they wish to take forward.”
The leader of the Combined Authority, Conservative James Palmer, responded to Labour’s criticism, saying: “My job is to deliver for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and that’s what we have done.
After 20 years of limited ideas and little investment, in the last three-and-a-half years we have attracted millions in additional funding to the area and delivered on long-promised projects like a University for Peterborough, a new station for Soham and investment in the stations for Whittlesey, Manea and March.
“With the active travel grant, we took an impressive list of projects provided by Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to Government.
“We gave those councils the money up front so they could deliver 40 of them right away when Covid was having the greatest impact, rather than wait until later in the year when DfT were planning to disburse the remaining funds.
“Once again, we delivered for residents across the area by doing things differently.
“Judging the Combined Authority against one emergency grant application, rather than on all the projects and money we have delivered, is an example of the short sighted views that preceded the Combined Authority, and what we have left behind with our single minded focus on delivery for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”