Let’s spend that money, Mr Mayor

We need our Regional Mayor to unlock funds he’s holding to help pay for creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

So says Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse, in a letter to the WECA Mayor Tim Bowles, urging him to release the £80 million he received two years ago as part of the Transforming Cities Fund.

Wera Hobhouse said:

Delay is as bad as denial when it comes to the Climate Emergency.

 Tim Bowles received some £80m as part of the Transforming Cities Fund two years ago. This money is to improve the region’s sustainable transport. So far he has spent absolutely nothing on walking and cycling infrastructure.

“The local council has projects ready to go, and now has encouragement from Transport Minister Grant Shapps. All we get from Tim Bowles is dither and delay. No vision, just the offer that he will chair another meeting in the latter half of June. He is letting the whole region down.”

On 9th May Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport said that the government expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.

Wera Hobhouse added:

Considering that the government is also urging people to avoid public transport for some considerable time, a message that Tim Bowles himself passed on to the region’s businesses, it is bizarre in the extreme that he continues to hoard the money Government has already given us.

“We have a unique opportunity to actually transform the region’s cities, whilst road space is relatively quiet. I am calling on him to release £5m to each authority within WECA to get their projects underway now, and not dither and delay any longer.

I approached the Mayor’s office for comment and received the following statement from Tim Bowles:

I’m getting on with investing in the West of England’s places and people. Whether that’s working with our councils, including BANES, to fully allocate all of our Transforming Cities Fund money to projects that will deliver sustainable travel improvements for the region, or developing our Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan so we can get the funding we need from Government.

The West of England needs people who get things done, rather than using it as a stepping stone for other jobs.

“I’ve invested more than £123m in sustainable travel right across the region since I became Mayor. Those projects have seen public and active transport properly brought together so that the changes we’re making are much more impactful than simple piecemeal works

“Now I want to create a positive and lasting legacy for cycling and walking infrastructure in the West of England as a result of this pandemic and that is why I lobbied the Government for extra funding.

But rather than wait for that funding to be released, there will be £3m of Combined Authority funding immediately available to underwrite Emergency Active Travel measures so our councils can get on with the changes they need to make.

On top of this, and any further money we receive from the Government, I am making an extra £10m of Combined Authority funding available so that we can get on with building that legacy.

Having a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which includes a number of schemes in Bath, is key to getting Government funding for Cycling and Walking projects approved so we look forward to receiving support from the Lib Dem MP for Bath along with her colleagues in getting that approval asap.’