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Cycling – Tories won’t commit

Opposition group calls on Suffolk County Council's Conservative administration to commit £20m to spend on cycle network upgrades it pledged in election manifesto

Calls have been made for Suffolk County Council's Conservative administration to commit to spending £20million of identified cycle network upgrades pledged in its manifesto and outline a timetable for work.

The party's election manifesto for the 2021 local election polls in May said: "We have identified over £20m of upgrades for our cycle network."

The opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group on Wednesday afternoon lodged a motion at the full council meeting calling on the authority to agree to allocate that sum to cycle infrastructure upgrades, and outline annual targets for that work.

Members of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group at Suffolk County Council with the Conservative manifesto outside the Endeavour House base.

However, the motion was voted down by the 42 votes to 17, as the administration said it could achieve the improvements without having to borrow that sum of cash.

Conservative cabinet member for the environment, Richard Rout said:

"The rationale of having these identified, shovel-ready schemes, is not to place undue pressure on the Suffolk taxpayer or risk the council finances, but to draw down on funding schemes as they become available. 

Making a commitment today is not how we set budgets - pressures need to be measured against one another. We believe we can deliver real change and real improvements to our cycle network in line with our manifesto without placing undue pressure on the Suffolk taxpayer."

The council declared a climate emergency in which it pledged to become net carbon zero by 2030, with environmental considerations underpinning decision-making at the authority.

The opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group said people needed to be given a reason to leave their cars at home, which meant investment in walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure.

Deputy leader of the group, Robert Lindsay, said:

"If we don't set yearly targets we will have no incentive to actively go out and seek to raise that money."

Addressing the Conservative front bench, he added:

"Not only have you refused to timetable spending by year, you are also refusing to commit to spending it even by 2030."

Group leader Andrew Stringer added:

"The Green, Lib Dem and Independent group gave the Conservatives an opportunity to commit to delivering a timetable to carry even a fraction of these works, and they have declined. Those that voted Conservative thinking that these schemes would have a commitment to be delivered may feel they have been short-changed."