Green Party Call for Climate Conscious County Budget

At the budget meeting of Gloucestershire County Council next week, the Green Party will bring forward budget amendments to put Gloucestershire County Council on track to tackling the current climate emergency, improving air quality and public health, and supporting small businesses in Gloucestershire.

Green Party proposals call for:

  • A 10-fold increase in the budget for cycling. We want to see the current paltry capital allocation of £100,000 turned into £1m this year, and £10m next year, sending a clear message that the County supports cycling schemes that help people get around and stay healthy.
  • A moratorium on road expansion schemes, unless they have a proven impact improving air quality and reducing carbon. We should repair the roads we have, but in light of the current climate emergency, we cannot afford new schemes that damage our environment.
  • Proper ring-fencing of the integrated transport budget. Too often money that should be spent on public transport is being poured into costly road building. This money comes from government to improve mobility for all. That’s how it should be spent: on bus stops, pavements and footpaths and cycle provision.
  • Additional staff for sustainable travel and public participation. We want to see two new posts: an additional ‘Think Travel Co-ordinator’, and a new ‘Public Participation Officer’, able to work with local citizens to meet the challenges facing Gloucestershire.

The amendments will be brought to the Council meeting on the 13th February by Cllr Rachel Smith (Minchinhampton) and Cllr Eva Ward (Stroud Central).

Rachel said: “We’ve focused on transport because it is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions in the County. We want to see investments in our roads, public transport and cycle routes that bring real benefits to the county.”

“The current Conservative’s budget is all about pouring money into tarmac and out-sourced contractors. But more roads simply means more cars. And that brings more pollution and more dangerous streets. We should be investing properly in transport for the future we want, not repeating old and costly mistakes.”

Cllr Eva Ward said: “I hope other members of the Council will support our call for a new participation officer. The public have a really key role to play in the work of the Council – but right now if you try and attend a meeting, or ask a question, the experience can be really frustrating. This is a positive proposal that can help improve the relationship between the public and the authority.”

Rachel also said: “Parents and families want to be able to get around without getting in the car. But until we have good public transport, well-maintained pavements and footpaths, and safe segregated cycle ways, they are often prevented from doing so. We want to see the County provide a lead, making funds available to plan and build better off-road routes right across the County.”

Notes: the proposals in detail

The Green Party’s costed budget ammendments call for:

A moratorium on any road expansion scheme that does not have an independently assessed net-positive impact on improving air quality, and reducing carbon emissions.

Within the remaining highways capital investment, schemes should be strictly prioritised so that only schemes that can prove they will reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality should proceed.

Green Party proposals call for future budget documents to show independent estimates of air quality and carbon impacts of all planned capital spend, based on nationally agreed methodologies.

A ten-fold increase in the current capital budget allocation for dedicated cycling provision in 2019/20, to be followed by a further ten-fold increase next year.

The Conservative’s budget allocates a paltry £100,000 of internal finance to ‘Cycle infrastructure 19/20’, yet investments in segregated cycle routes will reduce carbon emissions, increase safe active transport, and improve traffic flow and air quality by taking cars off the roads. Evidence suggests cyclists also spend more at local shops, highlighting that when we create good local transport, we support local enterprise.

Re-allocating money from the £15.66m ‘Carriageways 19/20’ budget line to create a ‘Cycle infrastructure’ budget of £1m in 2019/20 to support feasibility work and investment-ready projects, with a view to a budget allocation of £10m in 2020/21, would send a clear signal that the County truly backs active transport and is committed to transforming travel to address climate change.

Proper ring-fencing of the integrated transport budget to focus on improvements to public and active transport.

We are concerned that this funding from government, which should only be spent on improvements to infrastructure for public transport, walking and cycling, has been spent on general road maintenance.

An additional member in the Think Travel team to support the roll out of the Mode Shift work that supports schools to develop and implement their school travel plans.

This can be funded by the re-allocation of £50,000 from the MTC3 Savings Contingency Budget. An additional member of staff would increase capacity, allowing the team to work with at least 6 more schools a year, as well as with other areas of the community.

Improved support for public participation in Council businessby allocating £50,000 for a Council post to support public engagement in Council meetings and activities.

Responding to climate change, Brexit and pressures on local government requires the Council to be more open, and to engage with citizens in solving local problems. Far too often though, citizens experience of engaging with Council meetings is frustrating and counterproductive. By re-allocating budget from a Political Group Researcher role, to a public engagement officer, we want to see a more welcoming environment created for local citizens, and a positive shift in the culture around consultations and public engagement.