Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Cycling England web resources find a new home

The Cycling England website will close at the end of March. The DfT says it will transfer the Cycling England web resources to a new website.

The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport says that, starting on 1st April, some of the most useful material (guidance notes, case studies, reports etc) from the Cycling England website will start to be available on the Institute's website at: http://www.ciltuk.org.uk/pages/cycling

Good news from the DfT - more money for cycle town projects after Cycling England is dead

Some £836,000 was granted by the DfT on March 21 to "chosen cycle town projects" and railways as a sort of one-off grant to improve cycling - in the last moments of Cycling England which finally ceases to exist on 1 April.

On the UK Parliament website, Norman Baker says he is granting the money "to implement a number of small sustainable projects in the cycle towns and, separately, for three train operating companies to enhance their bike and rail schemes."

Very mysterious and in contradiction to the idea that all Cycle Town projects will cease on April 1.

"The chosen cycle town projects - Blackpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Colchester, Darlington, Derby, Exeter, Leighton Linslade, South Gloucestershire, Southend, Shrewsbury, Woking and York - have been assessed as capable of being delivered within the current financial year while offering value-for-money"

Brighton and Hove was not on the list.

The announcement continues: "This is in addition to our recently launched local sustainable transport fund which allows local authorities to bid for a share of £560 million over four years, aimed at encouraging sustainable transport solutions, including cycling initiatives, that will create economic growth and cut carbon.

"This additional funding demonstrates the Government's continued commitment to cycling, recognising their potential contribution to reducing carbon emissions, improving health and creating economic growth.

Link to Parliament website for more info

Friday, 25 March 2011

Cycling England is dead; new Sustainable Transport Fund undermined by Localism Agenda

The Department for Transport has abolished the "quango" that promoted cycling and sustainable transport in the UK, saying it can do better in house. But Sustrans says the government's strategy is undermined by its "localism agenda".

On March 31, Cycling England, the “Non Governmental Public Body” that was supposed to get “more people cycling, more safely, more often” in England will be abolished as part of coalition government reforms to “increase accountability, deliver smaller government and improve efficiency”.

The DfT has set up the £560m Local Sustainable Transport Fund to take over its role from 1 April 2011. The LSTF will provide funds, but no guidance to local authorities on the journey to “modal shift” in sustainable transport? Will this be enough to change our present car-bound national profile to one where we use public transport and walk and cycle more? Instead of our sluggish 1-2% of trips by cycle at present, can we in the UK ever hope approach the dashing Dutch figure 27% of trips by bicycle (33% in racy Utrecht)?

I tried to talk with Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker. His spokesperson was very helpful, and directed me to an online video of the Minister, where I saw a convincing depiction of the dream of a future UK where transport is sustainable.

But it is going to to be up Local Authorities to deliver the dream. The spokesperson confirmed that no policy or advisory body or department would replace Cycling England. It would be up to local authorities to devise and implement initiatives to persuade people to use sustainable transport.

Yet, as I know from living in Brighton and Hove, local authorities are not all committed to sustainable transport. Anyway, cycling campaigners believe we can’t achieve modal shift without enabling national policies and legislation.

Maybe something is cooking behind the scenes in the DfT that no one is telling me about, some killer policy move that will mark the route to the promised land of sustainable. But it there is, they are not telling me.

I decided to talk to Sustrans. Sustrans was among the vocal critics of Brighton and Hove City council in February when they announced plans to demolish the city’s flagship cycle freeway, paid for by Cycling England money.

I spoke with Jason Torrance, Sustrans' Policy Manager. He surprised me by telling me that the creation of the LSTF arose from an idea first mooted by Sustrans, Campaign for Better Transport and Friends of the Earth – that of a Transport Carbon Reduction Fund. It formed part of both Conservative and Liberal Election Manifestos in last year’s parliamentary elections.

“So you got what you wanted?” I asked.

“Yes and no,” he said. “We got ring fenced funding for Sustainable Transport – which the DfT are to be congratulated for. But we didn’t want less money for Transport overall – but who does?. When we made our original proposition we didn’t know Local Authority Transport funding would be slashed. In England, outside of London it’s 26% lower. Capital and revenue are both reduced, even with the sticking plaster of the LSTF. Spread over all the Local Authorities, the LSTF funding is very small, too small to make any significant difference.

“There is a welcome focus on where the majority of journeys take place – locally. But there is a collision of national government aspirations and localism agenda. The Transport Secretary, Phillip Hammond says on the one hand that the government has prioritised action to tackle climate change but on the other hand he says that local views can be different. Some will deprioritise sustainable transport.

Mr Torrance is sanguine about the demise of Cycling England: “We don’t have a funding environment that has prioritised £140m for a Cycling England. It is now incumbent on the local authorities to use the momentum in a wider sense and move towards integrated transport systems as a part of upcoming Local Transport Plans published at the end of March.”

I asked him whether he felt the DfT could achieve modal shift without a strong body like Cycling England helping guide Local Authorities with policy guidelines set at national level, such as 20 mph and stricter liability.

“It’s a not a problem of the existence or otherwise of Cycling England, it’s problem of the localisation agenda,” he said.

I told Mr Torrance that where I live, in Brighton and Hove, the Local Authority is trying to repeal its commitment to sustainable transport.

“Yes, in the general dialogue there is an alleged war on the motorist. We’ll see more of that around fuel duties. But our inefficient transport system imposes significant costs on our economy. Congestion, air quality, accidents, and physical inactivity each cost our wider economy some £10bn a year. That’s quite a cost. Travel choice has been marginalised and motoring made a necessity.”

The DfT told me they would not set up an infrastructure or policy unit to guide local authorities Local Authorities under the LSTF, and rather, “it is local authorities and their delivery partners who have the practical experience and expertise of delivering successful sustainable transport projects on the ground.”

Mr Torrance replied: “The reality is that we have an ever devolving localised political trend. We need urgent guidance from central government to Local Authorities. That is what will save billions. We have a huge potential to change the way that we make the majority of our journeys and make the step change to four out of five local journeys being made by foot, bike or public transport,

“The localism agenda makes it difficult to have an adequate response to climate change or physical inactivity. We need a national response to a national crisis. Devolving responsibility to Local Authorities to interpret or in their own way prioritise as they see fit is not necessarily a recipe for success. Phillip Hammond quotes national policy as giving over-riding commitment to localism – the reality is that this may well end up undermining the government’s very own strategy.”

Do you think we need 20 mph limits and stricter liability?

“Sustrans’ Quality Streets campaign (www.quality-streets.org.uk) has brought a coalition of organisations together to push for the critical enabling environment for cycling – low motor traffic speeds via a 20mph default in all residential areas. We are pushing for additional guidance to encourage local authorities. But being a tempered political realist that’s not going to happen on a national level. It is happening due to local decisions in some places, parts of London and Portsmouth for example. But there’s no coherent road safety strategy in this country. The localism agenda precludes national strategy guidelines. We are lagging behind many parts of Europe and our economy is suffering. If we wanted to achieve that modal shift - that 2% of trips that are currently made by bike transformed into the around 27% happens in the Netherlands - we would need real focus and real direction from government.”

From your relationship with government, do you believe the structures being proposed by the DfT will enable modal shift toward sustainable transport?

“My wife says I’m a relentless optimist. But my optimism is getting stretched very thinly indeed. We have small steps where giant leaps are required.”

Thursday, 24 March 2011

OPINION: Will Brighton & Hove get away with scrapping the cycling dream and keeping the money?

Clock Tower Approaches
Audit and evaluation of The Cycle Demonstration Town by the seaside

Cycling England is set to close on March 31. But there may yet be a few twitches from the corpse of the body that was supposed to promote cycling in England. After it closes, the work of the monitoring and evaluating the work done in Cycle Cities and Towns, funded by Cycling England grants, will continue for some time.

So we’ve yet to hear the reports of what happened to Brighton and Hove’s Cycle Town scheme, where key components were scrapped.

Despite its apparent commitment to being a Cycling Town (link below), Brighton and Hove, where I live, is in the grip of a minority Tory council administration which in January declared its intention to “repeal” the city’s decade long commitment to promoting sustainable transport, and instead to combat “unfair penalisation of car drivers”.

Over the last year or so, the council has cancelled key elements in the plan for a network of protected cycle lanes that lay at the heart of the Cycling Demonstration Town scheme. The scheme was paid for by Cycling England grants and cost around of £4.5 million including partial grant matching from the city.

In February the Conservatives proposed a budget including plans to demolish The Drive Cycle Freeway in February - which cuts across the driveways of Tory heartland in Hove. Council Leader Mary Mears she said there were no fears the council would have to refund the money to Cycling England because “that quango is about to be abolished.”

Of course Mary Mears is mistaken. She will have to account for it because it is public money. But since her council now no longer has to answer to a “Non Departmental Public Body” like Cycling England, but rather to the Department of Transport under the political control of Liberal Democrat MP for the nearby town of Lewes, Secretary of State Norman Baker, one wonders whether the evaluation procedures applied will be as rigorous as they might have been when Cycling England was alive.

Cyclists in Brighton and Hove are incensed by the apparent diversion of resources intended for a cycling infrastructure that was supposed to encourage thousands of school children to cycle to school. Where are the protected cycle lanes planned for Old Shoreham Road and London Road? Where are The Drive’s safe interchanges and connections with the north of the city and the South Down’s National Park?

We draw scant comfort from the fact that the Department will continue to fund Bikeability (cycle training for children) for four years from 2011 – 2015, and to fund safe routes to school and Bike Club in 2011/12. These programmes encourage children to cycle to school, but I know from cycling The Old Shoreham Road myself that this is asking for trouble when there are no safe cycling lanes. Kids are forced to cycle along the pavement because it is too dangerous along the road. And cycle casualties are increasing in the city.

The council has cancelled the important backbone of protected cycle freeways, and instead painted white lines on the road or designated cycle lanes on peripheral routes, such as Madeira Drive, which is actually closed during peak summer periods. (more>>>)

ConDem coalition's green aspirations dashed against monetarist budget

Green Peace protesters (Guardian)
The UK's coalition government, amusingly nicknamed "ConDem" by opponents who see the UK being condemned to years of misery, included a raft of "green" measures in its budget proposals unveiled yesterday. However, although they speak the green words, they don't deliver. They focus on a traditional economic model of monetarism and "growth is king", when we need to adopt green economic strategies if we are to avert looming environmental disaster.

Caroline Lucas' Guardian blog summarises ways in which the Budget makes green sounds - and then fails to deliver. She says: "The chancellor has missed a huge opportunity to turn environmental necessity to our economic and social advantage and end our dependency on fossil fuels."

Government budget proposals that sound green but do the opposite:
• Green Economy - Set up a Green Bank - but stop it from borrowing
• Sustainable Transport - Scrap the planned tax on air travel, and reduce tax on petrol for cars
• Carbon floor prices: at £30 a tonne, the new levy on carbon will hardly promote low-carbon energy, but  will give nuclear power companies a windfall subsidy
• Zero-carbon homes - change rules so "zero-carbon" homes would in fact create carbon emissions.

Caroline Lucas says: "This budget contains nothing to shift us away from our dependency on oil and gas, nothing to take advantage of the potential of new technologies such as wind, wave and tide, and precious little to encourage investment in renewable industries.

"This is not only bad economics – it is also a huge missed opportunity. Between the extremes of Tory kill-to-be-kind austerity and a return to Labour's debt-fuelled spend-a-thon lies a more subtle alternative: avoiding savage cuts in public spending that could trigger a new recession, but also concentrating that spending where it has the maximum economic, social and environmental benefit.

She describes how this would work. The "green deal" says money invested energy saving (home insulation and domestic solar panels for example) could sustain far more jobs than other forms of government spending, and also reduce fuel poverty, improve health and tackle climate change. "Today, the arguments in favour are stronger, particularly with hikes in regressive taxes such as VAT and cuts in benefits and services leaving the poorest even more vulnerable," she said.

Link to Caroline Lucas Blog

Mostost: new word for a new world

In the beginning was the word
I've been writing a lot of words about sustainable transport. "Modal shift toward sustainable transport", to be precise. This phrase sums up the policy goal of getting large numbers of people to choose to walk or cycle more often - to use more sustainable transport methods. Also included in these transport methods are electric cars and public transport, because they are thought to be more sustainable than the motor car, since they reduce the carbon emissions per trip per person. Though of course they are not the purists' choice .... 

Anyway, I'm finding that I use the phrase "Modal shift toward sustainable transport" quite a lot. I've been struggling with it. I long for an alternative, something short and pithy. I've tried shortening it to "Modal Shift", which sort of works but begs the question of where to in every use, or just "Sustainable Transport" but that's simply not right when we're trying to talk about how to encourage people to that goal.

So what about an acronym. MOdal Shift TOward Sustainable Transport. MOSTOST.

It would be an abstract noun - a thing which cannot be seen or touched, like "goal".

"We're committed to Mostost", "Council pays lip service to Mostost", "Mostost the answer to the oil crisis". Does it work for you?

"Mostost" is my invention and I claim it in the name of the future green world.

A Fresh Start for a Fair City

Green Party candidates for local elections at Manifesto launch
18 March 2010. The Green Party launched its bid to become the UK's first Green led council in the UK in local elections in Brighton and Hove on 5 May. Offering a list of thirteen priorities over the next four years, the manifesto is headed by a pledge to resist the service cuts and privatisation imposed by the Conservative and Lib Dem Government.

I designed the Manifesto document, drafted the press release and photographed the event.
A Fresh Start for a Fairer CityThe manifesto 'Fresh Start for a Fair City' is available as a PDF file: here

It says, "In May 2011 we have the opportunity to win more seats and maybe even lead the council."

"In these difficult circumstances Green councillors will do their very best for the city," says Green Party Convenor Councillor Bill Randall.

"We can't stop the cuts made at source by the Coalition, but we will fight them all the way, oppose any attempt to further privatise local services and tackle the inequalities that tarnish this city. "

"We realise many of our Manifesto plans cannot be implemented immediately because the city is starved of cash. But we will not abandon our aspirations, because they offer practical solutions to the challenges the city faces.

"Only Greens are committed to open book working with other political parties, the trade unions, third sector and voluntary organisations and residents to meet the challenges ahead. (more>>>)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Green councillors' petition forces debate on cycle lane safety in Hove

Alex Phillips collecting signatures
22 March 2011. Green councillors Ian Davey and Alex Phillips will present a 3500-strong petition on the threatened Hove cycle lanes for debate at this Thursday’s Full Council meeting. It comes after the Tory administration revealed plans to spend £1.1m removing the lanes.

The councillors will also be seeking council support for a series of safety recommendations. These will secure the future of the cycle lane by examining safety concerns and completing missing links to enable cyclists to access it safely.

Councillor Davey said: “The public have expressed overwhelming support for retaining these cycle lanes on The Drive and Grand Avenue. We are calling on the Conservative administration to respond by releasing the safety audits into the public domain and to commit to addressing any safety concerns that exist.”

“We would also like to see improved access by finishing links to the north, and work completed around a cycle lane along the Old Shoreham Road - which also had significant public support. We hope that the Conservative administration will take this opportunity to once and for all commit not to digging up these lanes.

“Money would be better spent improving rather than scrapping cycle infrastructure in this city.”

Cllr Phillips said: “Let's give people the choice to be able to ride their bike on the road, and make cycling safer and easier so that we can truly become the cycle town we were once accredited for being.” (more >>>)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Leader of the Greens calls for safer roads after claims council was waiting for higher casualities

On Friday 18 March 2011, the leader of the UK Green Party Caroline Lucas joined a protest staged by group of parents and school children, calling for safer crossings on the busy Surrenden Road in Brighton. Shockingly, protest organiser Fiona McWilliam said a councillor had told her that council policy was to wait until there were sufficient causalities.

I made this video of the event.

Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas is also MP for Brighton Pavilion and resident in the ward. She said Green Councillor Amy Kennedy had been campaigning for a crossing for years.

Caroline Lucas said: "We need a crossing here urgently beause literally thousands of children are trying to get to the schools here. You can just see as you stand here it's an absolute nightmare. Parents would dearly love to send their kids to school by walking but they're afraid to. You really take your life in your hands if you cross this road. No change from the council, we've been pressing for a 20mph limit, still no action from the council. That's why we really do need to change the council in May, make sure there's more Greens in it."

Over 30 parents, children and Green Party campaigners staged the protest. Originally the plan had been to levy a voluntary toll on motorists, but organiser Fiona McWilliam said she had decided that was too dangerous. They contented themselves with waving placards instead. Many of the motorists hooted their support.

Mother of five Fiona McWilliams said "we literally take our lives in our hands every morning". She has written numerous letters to the council, and had a letter from one of the councillors who said council policy was to wait until there had been several accidents, but that she had recent news the council has now changed their policy assess the risk to children.

Transport spokesman for the Brighton and Hove Green Party Ian Davey said: "Residents are calling for a 20mph speed limit and introduction for a safer crossing. We're calling for something to be done now."

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

National Trust puts cycling at hub of new initiative

Pic from original Guardian story, link below
The Guardian reported today that the National Trust is making a nationwide push to have a greater focus on its coastal and countryside sites – and cycling is at the heart of this initiative. There are more than 200 trust properties within a mile of the National Cycle Network. For the more adventurous cyclist, the National Trust is developing two bespoke mountain bike facilities in the south-west: one at Plymbridge on the outskirts of Plymouth and another in Cornwall.

Surprisingly - or not, to regular readers of this blog - some people think this is a waste of time. Here is what one of them said, and my riposte. Or, link to full Guardian article and comments below.
Actually there's quite a good national network of cycle routes in place already: we call it "the road system" and it's perfectly accessible to anyone with enough brains to read an OS map. In fact you don't even have to pay to use it. "Graded way-marked routes" and "skills areas" (whatever those might be) are not required.

You sound like you know a thing or two about cycling. Around 1- 2% of trips are made by bike in UK. In Utrecht: 33%. Our struggle in UK is to engage with those people who too scared to cycle, either because they are worried about traffic and safety, or because they worry they are not fit enough. We have to make cycling attractive to non cyclists.
In order to promote 'modal shift' to 'sustainable transport' we need to campaign for stricter liability laws in case of accident, 20mph in urban areas, AND an enabling environment for timid cyclists, children and those who would like to get out of their cars but don't know if they can. That means segregated cycling on main routes AND easy encouraging access to country side.
You may be a road warrior, but we must construct an environment that encourages all to cycle and walk more. Then congestion and pollution and energy consumption will ease - as if by magic.
Support the NT initiative, don't belittle timid cyclists!
Link to Guardian Story on National Trust cycling initiative

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Safe School Crossings protest for Surrenden Road on Red Nose Day

View looking along Surrenden Road toward Draxmont Way
15 March 2011. Worried parents and campaigners will levy a “voluntary toll” on traffic using Surrenden Road on Friday, as Brighton & Hove Green Party calls for safer roads.

Safer Surrenden campaigners will levy the toll on one of Brighton and Hove's busiest roads as a combined protest and Red Nose Day stunt. They will set up a temporary safe crossing for school children at the junction of Surrenden Crescent and Draxmont Way between 8.20 and 8.40am, Friday 18th March 2011.

Fiona McWilliam, newly appointed organiser of the Safer Surrenden campaign said: “At least four children have been hit by vehicles over the past year. Worried parents are hijacking Red Nose Day to highlight the potential danger to children posed by Brighton and Hove Council's reluctance to reduce the 30mph speed limit or install fixed crossings on Surrenden Road. Several of the hundreds of parents and children who struggle to cross this busy road every day will ask fellow residents to pay a voluntary toll at the hazardous junction with Surrenden Crescent and Draxmont Way.”

The nearby Balfour-Varndean-Dorothy Stringer campus is home to four schools, a playgroup and a sixth-form college.

Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, said: “The Safer Surrenden campaign is three years old. Children from six schools nearby cross Surrenden Road. There have been too many recent accidents involving personal injury in the road. It needs safe crossings at a suitable distance from the dangerous bend in the road near Draxmont way (Dorothy Stringer school and Varndean college), and at the Harrington Rd to Bates Rd crossing of Surrenden. The council has blocked attempts by myself and Councillor Amy Kennedy to get a crossing near Dorothy Stringer. (more>>>)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Victory for opposition to Conservative Budget - and The Drive Cycle lane is safe for now

UPDATE 11pm. Earlier tonight Brighton and Hove's Conservative Budget was voted down by combined Green/Labour opposition and Green/Labour amendments were voted through. Full analysis is promised in tomorrow's Argus, but so far as The Drive Cycle lane goes: it is safe for the time being.

Highlights of the amendments pushed through by Green/Labour councillors:

* Council tax will be frozen rather than dropped by 1% as the Conservatives proposed

* The Drive/Grand Avenue (D2) cycle lane won't be demolished (at cost £1.1m).

* Residents parking permits won't be reduced

* Additional funding est. at £2.5m will be available for front line services including school support, care, community safety etc.

The Greens lost their bid to allocate £200,000 to planning for a sustainable city. They couldn't get agreement with the other two major parties. The parties wanted the £200,000 spent as follows (according to Brighton Argus, whose reporter Tim Ridgeway provided excellent on-line live coverage of the budget, well done Argus):
"Tories - spend a small amount on new library books, money for a bus study and for sports development
Labour - for works on Brighton seafront east of palace pier
Greens - to support the planning team which they see as vital for the future growth of city."

Personally, I can't wait for a Green controlled council - just imagine what a city planned around sustainable development - rather than ad-hoc fixes - might look like, and be like to live in.
Green Councillors and Candidates outside Brighton Town Hall 3 March 2011

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cycle protesters join the Brighton Stop the Cuts protest as Greens and Labour vow to overturn Conservative budget

Left, Stop the cuts march in Hove, Cllr Bill Randall on the right

3 March 2011. Cyclists protesting cycle lane closures joined the Stop the Cuts protest outside Brighton Town Hall today, as Greens and Labour promised to overturn the Conservative budget.

The budget proposes £34m in cuts, and reduction in council tax of 1% with loss of hundreds of jobs in front line services - while spending £1.1m on ripping out cycle lanes and building doing up car parks. Prominent among the marchers were Green Councillors. Councillor Bill Randall, leader of the Greens, said, as he went into the full council meeting at 4.30 pm: "Greens and Labour will overturn this budget."

Speakers in front of Brighton Town Hall, Cyclists bring up the rear of the march
Around a dozen cyclists met outside Hove Town Hall at 3pm and cycled to King's House, along the Drive, where they joined other
cyclists among over 100 Stop the Cuts protesters. The protest march was led by the deep blue banner of Brighton and Hove Unison, and followed by banners and placards of the GMB, Brighton and Hove Green Party, National Union of Teachers, the Socialist Party, Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers, Benefits Campaign and others.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Opinion: Boris Bike hire for Brighton - furious back pedalling or cunning stunt?

"City gears up for Boris Bikes" was the headline in today's Argus. "City gears up for budget protests" was a more pertinent alternative. The cross-party protest against the Conservative proposed budget was relegated to inside pages. The trade union-organised Stop The Cuts protest, scheduled for tomorrow and expected to attract "hundreds" of supporters, was relegated to the bottom of page seven, and the story that Green and Labour have promised to unite to defeat the budget was on page two.

The "exclusive" bike story by Tim Ridgeway read: "Council bosses are in talks with businesses about ways to introduce the iconic blue communal cycles." Leaders and spokespeople from all the major parties were interviewed and all expressed their support for a bike hire scheme. The article says the scheme would be dependent on sponsorship to cover the investment.

But this is not news - the council has been examining ways to get a bike hire scheme going for months, if not longer. Has a sponsor been found? No mention of one in the article. The bike hire story is thin on facts. There is no announcement of progress, or of any commitment to the scheme from anyone. So why is it on the front page of the Argus now?

Could it be an attempt to back track on the anti-cycling stance implied by the Conservative determination to demolish the city's European-style cycle freeway?

Or is this bike hire story, and the plan to demolish Hove cycle lanes, all part of a scheme to divert local attention away from the massive cuts the administration is making to public services. A local "straw dog" rather like the national government proposal to privatise the publicly owned forests, a policy that the Conservatives must have known would attract united opposition, which would consume the attention and resources of that opposition, and a policy they could easily U-turn on. And maybe even come out looking like an administration that cares and is flexible. Leaving them room to be tough where it counts - on cuts to public services.

If the local Tories are really so cunning as to try a stunt like this, they risk a big back-fire. They may end up simply uniting the opposition, and the populace, and losing the local election scheduled for 5 May by a big margin - a risk central government doesn't run just yet.

I predict we won't get a commitment on Boris Bike Hire in Brighton until after the local election, when we will know whether the cycle-lane-crushing, social-services-axing Conservative administration remains in power or not. So let's go ahead and attend the cycle protest tomorrow, and those who want to, cycle to Brighton to join stop the cuts later.

The front page of today's Argus is copied above. Cuts protesters are in fact featured - but the protest photo is of a past event. No mention on the front page of the much bigger protest scheduled for tomorrow. Another straw dog, Argus?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Vision vs reality: what was original Cycle Demonstration Town plan for Brighton & Hove?

I was sent a diagram of the original proposal, from which I produced the above:
Map showing the original Cycle Demonstration Town Cycle network as envisaged in 2005, superimposed over a 2011 map of cycle lanes supplied by the council. This is a work in progress, I will be adding refinements including the location of the intended segregated freeway sections.

For now: The cycle freeway elements were intended to be:
* the seafront
* the drive
* the old shoreham road
* the valley gardens (as part of proposals now scrapped) roughly from the seafront to london road

Green alternative budget proposes cutting jobs of top council executives

The Green Party proposes an alternative budget "to reverse cuts, save jobs and introduce sustainable ways of funding the council". One of the funding proposals is to cut top jobs at top level of the council.

Yesterday, Green councillors were blocked from a radical proposal that "the council's four strategic directors, who earn approximately £125,000 each, be removed in favour of increased funding for the Connexions youth careers and advice service which has been subject to major cuts".

Green finance spokesperson Cllr Jason Kitcat said: "However skilled these strategic directors are, they're an expensive layer of management that the council simply cannot afford in the face of the unprecedented cuts the Conservative-led government is imposing on us. We are deeply disappointed we have been blocked by the Tory administration and senior officers from even discussing this proposal. This unwelcome move by the Tories and their appointed, unaccountable bureaucrats makes a mockery of local democracy."

"Our alternative budget would make council spending fairer, reduce the impact of the cuts and improve our position for future years. The Tories nationally are cutting our funding to the bone, while locally they are spending everything they've got in a desperate attempt to win over the electorate this May," said Jason.

"We are doing everything we legally can to minimise harm, set the groundwork for positive future projects and protect public services while voicing our anger at this Conservative-Lib Dem government's callous cuts."

Key items in it include:
* £924,000 of recurring funding being put back into services for Children, Young People & Families including Educational Psychologists and the Connexions careers & advice service.
* £500,000 to kick-start investment in solar panels for council homes and offices, which would create free electricity for tenants and new revenue through the ‘Feed in Tariff' for renewable energy generation.
* £450,000 for a new reserve to deal with the risks of the major changes proposed to services for Adult Social Care and Children, Young People & Families.
* £40,000 to pilot a residential food waste collection scheme.
* £25,000 to fund extra noise patrol shifts in the city.
* £15,000 more in grants to voluntary organisations in the city.
* £26,000 saved from removing catering for meetings councillors attend and £18,000 saved by reforming the system of councillor allowances.

The full Green Alternative Budget can be viewed online at: http://bit.ly/greenbudget

Hundreds of protesters expected as Labour and Greens to unite “for the good of the city” to fight Conservative budget plans in Brighton and Hove - including plan to scrap Hove cycle lane

1 March 2011. Protests are expected inside and outside Brighton Town Hall this Thursday 3 March, when the City Council debates the budget for the coming year. Labour and Green councillors announced today they will unite to table joint amendments to the Tory administration’s budget at Brighton and Hove City Council's budget meeting. Meanwhile, outside the Town Hall, Stop The Cuts protesters will march from Kings House to Brighton. The Brighton Argus today estimated 'hundreds' would join the Stop The Cuts protests. A smaller group of cycle protesters will gather at Hove Town Hall to join the protests. The protesters are expected to arrive outside Brighton Town Hall at 4pm.

The Tory/LibDem Coalition Government imposes spending cuts of £82.5 million on Brighton Hove during the next four years, with £34 million to be cut this year.

The Conservative council budget proposals also propose a 1% reduction in council tax, while spending £1.1m demolishing a cycle lane and $4.5m building car parks.

The Labour and Green proposals include reversal of the Tory plan to reduce council tax by 1%. Their press release issued today says: "The £1.1 million it takes from the budget would be used more effectively and fairly to protect local services and jobs for the general good of the city."

They will also oppose the Conservatives' plans to tear up the cycle lane in Hove, "saving about £1 million that can be spent sensibly elsewhere".

“We’re uniting for the good of the city,” said Brighton and Hove Labour Leader, Gill Mitchell. “The Tory budget is reckless and unstable and based more on election gimmicks than sound financial planning.”

Green Party Convenor Bill Randall said: “We have put aside political differences to oppose the cuts that will increase inequality in the city, victimise the vulnerable and penalise the poor. Furthermore 250 council jobs will be lost. Putting together our proposals has been very difficult because we have been denied access to information by the Tories who are intent on putting the whole city into reverse.”

Details of the Labour/Green joint amendments will be released later today. The council has seats for 54 councillors. 25 are Conservative, 13 are Labour, 13 are Green one is LibDem, one is independent and one is vacant.