Council budget – a letter to our local politicians

If there was one clear theme that stood out during our ride with council officers earlier this month, it was that even when the will is there to do something – it all takes ages. Partly this is down to the way the council works – but a lot of it is to do with money. The council is in the middle of setting its budget at the moment so we’re writing to all the political group leaders to ask them to prioritise active travel if they’re serious about tackling climate change – after all, they have declared a climate emergency.

We’ll let you know if they reply – but you may wish to email your own councillors independently yourself (you can find yours here) – in which case, let us know how you get on.

I am writing as Convener of Dumfries Cycling to ask you what the local SNP grouping’s proposals are in your proposed Council budget for 2020-21 to reflect the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in June 2019. In particular to ask how you will deliver the commitments in the Council’s 12 point climate emergency plan to “move further and faster on carbon reduction measures” and “ensure that measures to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions are acted on”.

Enabling and encouraging cycling, and walking, journeys is an obvious way to help reduce carbon emissions and therefore we would like to know what your proposals are within the new budget to make cycling an easier, safer, more attractive and more viable alternative for journeys within Dumfries in particular, but also in the region as a whole.

We note the results of the consultation on budget options late last year and that most participants disagreed with options to reduce spending on roads maintenance and winter service treatment of roads. We also note that the Full Council meeting in December 2019 “agreed to recommend that Political Groups take the consultation feedback into account as they develop their draft Council Budget for 2020/21 and beyond, including the level of Council Tax”. We would therefore hope not to see reductions in such expenditure in your proposed budget. Indeed we would like to see increases in maintenance expenditure on cycle and walking routes, including roads, and greater consideration in decision making on expenditure within these budgets given how these modes can have a part in reducing carbon emissions. This is particularly the case for cutting back vegetation and leaf clearing as well as winter treatment of our off-road cycle network which enables residents to walk and cycle year round, not just during the summer months.

As supporters of We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote, we are asking the council to follow Edinburgh Council’s lead and commit to increasing expenditure on active travel to reach 10% of the overall transport spend (capital and revenue). As a first step, we therefore ask you to increase the capital budget for Active Travel, which was reduced from £22,000 in 2018/19 to £20,000 for 2019/20. This means the 2019/20 allocation was a tiny 0.19% of the Infrastructure Asset Class Capital Programme Budget of £10,570,000.

To deliver enhanced expenditure on active travel we would also suggest greater staff resources need to be dedicated to encouraging and enabling active travel. This would have the further advantage of providing greater resources to make bids for Scottish Government money for walking and cycling, effectively doubling our resources in this area. It would also ensure that the money is spent efficiently and effectively as we develop local expertise.

Thank you for your attention. We will publish this letter on our website, together with the responses we receive from political parties/groups.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

group photo at the start
Our ride with council officers raised plenty of issues – but it’s the councillors who will have to agree the budgets they will need to put things right.

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